Journaling Through Relationships: Grandchildren 2

I WAS THERE when my first grandchild was born. My daughter-in-law had chosen to have her baby at home with a midwife. I’d also had mine with a midwife’s assistance, and I was delighted to be invited to lend a helping hand.

After a long labor, my granddaughter finally emerged into the world. Her mother was so exhausted, she wasn’t ready to take her baby into her arms, and my son was busy tending to his wife. And so it was that I was the first to nestle my granddaughter into the crook of my arm and gaze into her eyes, pupils open so wide they were black and fathomless as the night sky. In that moment, we imprinted upon each other, making a connection that continues to keep us close.

I was 44 — too young to be called “grandma,” I thought, and so I became “Nana.” Here is what I subsequently discovered: after raising children, grandchildren are a delightful surprise. All the fun of being a parent without any of the angst (unless, of course, you end up raising your grandchildren, and we’ll get to that in the prompts below).

The nature of the grandparent-grandchild relationship is influenced by many factors: physical proximity, frequency of contact, whether the parents are still married or divorced, and the expected role and function of the grandparent within the family to name a few.

I have been fortunate to have good relationships with my children and their spouses and to be invited into my grandchildren’s lives. I have been unfortunate in that my children have all moved, by reason of career or divorce or other circumstance, too far away to allow regular real-time contact between my grandchildren and me. This distance has prevented me from being the close kind of grandmother I wanted to be.

The following journaling prompts will help you define and explore the nature of your relationships with your grandchildren, the opportunities and obstacles you’ve experienced, and your thoughts and emotions about your role in the family.


Journaling Prompts for Grandparents

  • How old were you when you became a grandparent and how did your age affect how you perceived yourself in that role?
  • How involved are you in your grandchildren’s lives and what factors have influenced your involvement?
  • If you have more than one grandchild, do you have favorites among them? How do your preferences affect your relationships with them?
  • Are you raising or have you raised grandchildren? If so, has this affected your relationships with them? If not, how do you imagine that raising your grandchildren would have changed your interactions with them?
  • What is the best part of being a grandparent?
  • What is the worst part?
  • If you could do anything differently, in terms of your relationships with your grandchildren, what would that be?
  • What can you begin doing today to build better relationships with your grandchildren?

There’s no doubt that grandparents can be strong positive influences on children, that being a grandparent can be one of life’s most satisfying family roles, and there are as many variations of grandparenting as there are parenting.

What grandparenting role do you play in your family?


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2 thoughts on “Journaling Through Relationships: Grandchildren

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    I didn’t have children of my own, so I’ve not experienced many of the feelings my peers have had when it comes to grandchildren. Because of the fragmented relationship my husband has with his children, the relationship with their children (our grandchildren) is not what I’d hope it to be. At some point I’ve had to accept the reality of the situation as it is with both the stepchildren and grandchildren. But the prompts give me pause to think about the relationship I do have so that I can nourish certain aspects of those relationships. Thanks, Amber

  • Sharon Lippincott

    What a rare privilege you had, participating in that birth and being the first one to hold your first granddaughter. My mother’s mother was in the delivery room when I was born and also my siblings. But I did NOT want my mother there. Fortunately I was in Boston and she was in New Mexico when my first was born, so it never came up. Times had changed.

    That grandmother was 40 when I was born, the other 46. I often spent a week with each grandmother in the summer, and I’m just realizing right now that I felt close to them, although we did not spend time talking about what I liked to do, or anything about their lives. We just hung out together, each doing her thing. I read or worked on a sewing project, or fiddled around, helping as I could at my paternal grandparents’ photography studio.

    A couple of weeks ago in San Mateo I spent several hours peeling shrimp and other things with our son’s fiancée’s mother, whom I had never met. Mama is from Cameroon and speaks NO English. My French isn’t even minimal, and Mama presented an even bigger challenge, because her African French accent made words blur together in my ears. But … we did not need words to know each other. As we sat peeling and butterflying medium-sized shrimp, with yellowjackets swarming our shrimp-brined hands, we used body language, facial expressions and primal grunts to communicate. I easily discerned her wide open heart and gentle spirit. Like her daughter, she feels good to be around.

    Now, in this moment, I realize that we don’t have to have deep conversations with grandchildren to feel close. The ones I see the most want to head for my computer and hit YouTube when they visit. Or play on phones. The jury is out for me if that has the same kind of bonding potential as things I did. Perhaps we’ll see in another 25 years.

    Or less. My older three grands can all legally share a glass of beer or wine. They’re grown now, and in spite of thousands of miles separating us while they were kids, I do feel close to them. The oldest of the younger three became a teenager this morning. So maybe it’s those vibes more than abundant time, words and special projects and outings that build the relationship.

    Wow, I did not intend to write an entire blog post as a comment. Obviously your post today is especially rich and meaningful. Thank you!