Grandparent Prep 101.

Seems like there’s a special day for everything now. National Donut Day. National Daughter Day. National Second Favorite Stove Element Day. But recently there’s really only one that matters on my calendar, and that’s National Grandparents Day, coming up on September 13th.

It’s the first time I get to celebrate this day. My own grandparents passed away when I was in my 20’s, and while the holiday more or less officially started in 1978 in North America (when then US President Jimmy Carter passed the legislation), my family wasn’t aware of it. My grandparents all lived in England, so getting together to celebrate wasn’t something we could easily do.

Flash forward to 2020, and I’m now on the other end of the occasion, as a first-time grandma. In the year of Covid, where, once again, getting together to celebrate isn’t something everyone can do, easily or safely. I am lucky to have nine-month-old Owen in our household bubble, and have been taking advantage of the time I can spend with him.

I’ve had four kids of my own, and I can now tell you that babysitting is fun. Yes, I said it. I love helping out, when I’m not working, or working out, or helping my university aged kids get through their first and fourth year of studies, online for the first time.

Like many before me, I feel privileged to have become a grandma. I’m loving it, and like all new grandparents, I’m adjusting to not actually being in charge of a baby that I love as much as I did my OG (original) kids.

It takes an almost Herculean effort to not start many sentences with “when you guys were babies…” and to take in and accept the new norms and rules of parenting in 2020 (particularly during a pandemic). There are loads of different ways that my daughter and son-in-law are raising their baby, and I’m in awe of their confidence in parenting, honed after voracious research and knowledge seeking.

However, I wouldn’t be a human person if I didn’t feel that sometimes the ways that we did things were just as effective and maybe, at least from where I’m standing, a little less painful.

So, for all of my friends who will enter this wonderful world in the next few years, I offer up the following advice when you are preparing yourself for the venerable role of Grandma or Grandad.

1) Prepare answers to the questions – “how old was I when I crawled/walked/talked/said my first word.?” Make up something if you don’t know. How are they going to check? Obviously, they don’t know themselves or they wouldn’t be asking.

2) Build a mental shield against comments like “Well, our generation actually cares about the safety of our children.”, or “this is just science, Mom.” Nod and sip your coffee.

3) Refrain from the following remarks:

a. I think the baby is tired.
b. I don’t remember any of you guys having so much trouble sleeping.
c. I’m sure he could eat that.

4) Do this without questioning why: record poops, pees, and diaper changes for the first year, if they ask you to. Just do it.

5) If they ask you to wake up the baby at 12:17 you wake up the baby at 12:17. Not 12:16. Not 12:18. 12:17.

6) You are not #1 or even #2 in terms of who the baby prefers. Those positions go to Mom and Dad. Play competitively against other grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and assorted friends and family, and you might make it to #3. But play fair.

7) If they say the baby can’t have sugar/meat/dairy/wheat then guess what? THE BABY CAN’T HAVE THOSE THINGS. Muttering “I don’t see why not” is not helpful.

8) Yes, they do need that many pictures on Instagram. Let’s face it, so do you, Instagramma.

Above all, remember that they know their own baby best, as you did yours. Spend your time enjoying your grandchild, and if you want to spend innumerable hours trying to get them to say Grandma, I won’t judge. In fact, if anyone has any tips…


1) Take the time to make/mail or email a card to them. Consider it part of the art curriculum your kids are likely not getting right now. A video e-card from the kids will always be welcome.
2) Have the kids bake something to drop off to their grandparents. Can be something as easy as pre-packaged cookie dough.
3) Arrange to watch a movie at the same time, from your own homes. Make sure you don’t forget to pop some popcorn and drop some off if you can.
4) Book an online meet up time. Ask your grandparents what they remember about their grandparents and compare how you spend time together.
5) In home exercise equipment is hard to find right now, and reasonably, older Canadians are hesitant to return to their gyms. Do some research to see if you can lend them some equipment.
6) If the kids are older, see if they can go over and help their grandparents with fall yard clean up, from a socially distanced space.
7) Many grandparents are on social media. Find out which one they use the most and consider publicly declaring what makes them special to you.
8) If they are having trouble with technology, take some time to understand their issues and try to resolve them for them.

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