I am intimidated by being a grandma in the 21st century. I was a mother in the 20th century, when parenting was not as complicated. Our ancestors swaddled infants in slings and papooses, and they took their children everywhere. There was no alternative to breast milk. When I learned that my daughter-in-law was expecting, I began to wonder if I was up to the challenge of 21st Century Grandparenting.
The complexities begin before birth with “reveal parties.” When my children were born, the reveal took place in the delivery room when I heard “It’s a boy” and “It’s a girl.” I painted the nursery pastel yellow and waited for the reveal at birth. My son and daughter-in-law know their baby is a girl, which is helpful in planning wardrobe and décor, although I read that gender-neutral nurseries are trending again.
Next will come the baby shower, where I wouldn’t want to gift something passé. My friend’s daughter had a Magic Sleepsuit on her baby gift registry. It transitions a baby from swaddling to independent sleeping. I felt hip purchasing a gift that is marketed as magic — and it beat gifting a high-tech, odor-locking diaper pail.
My associate at work, who is a young mother, updates me on child care, such as the proper introduction of food to avoid allergies. I used to grind up whatever we were eating like a mama bird, minus the regurgitating in the baby’s mouth. Diets vary among consenting adults. If parents are dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian or vegan, they will want the grandparents to feed the grandchildren the same diet.
My associate does her grocery shopping using an app and has groceries delivered. She explained it as a choice between spending time food shopping or spending time with her daughter. It didn’t occur to her that she could take her daughter to the grocery store. It is a juggling act to care for a baby and put items in a shopping cart, but my generation found a way to do that. Our children had the stimulation of seeing a real live grocery store instead of a virtual one.
Parenting of children, as well as infants, has changed. I observe, in my office, that parents put a show or game on their cellphones and hand them to their children, who make themselves comfortable on the couch. The children are mesmerized. I used to offer them paper, stickers and colored pencils until they began to say “No, Thank You” and reach for their parents’ phones. I wonder whether I will be able to entertain my grandchildren if I don’t have game apps and videos. By any chance, do they still make Play-Doh?
When my children were little, my husband built them an indoor sandbox. It was raised off the floor and set down into a frame. The children actually dug in sand in our house. At the end of the day, we had to sweep the floor and put a cover on it to keep our cats from using it as litter. I will be the first to admit that my house was not the cleanest in the neighborhood, but it was the most fun. I only hope that my son and daughter-in-law can allow me to do some old-style grandparenting.
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