Emotional Health · Family & Friends

Unconditional Love: A Wise Grandmother’s Advice

This is just the kind of insight, brought to life by numerous examples, that can soothe hurt feelings and smooth the way for future harmony. Tracing  the role of grandparent from the first sign of pregnancy through the last years, Isay gives us road map for happiness. The number one point she makes again and again is that at every stage you must accept the importance of boundaries. The children and their home is the parents’ province, and if you wish to be welcomed there, you must respect their rules and guidelines. Grandparents can be admonished or even exiled if they try too often to do things “their way,” or they break too many rules about candy, presents, and activities.

However, if you negotiate the boundaries with care, your children and grandchildren will welcome you in their lives as the special person you are. Again and again, Isay does a great job of describing why the grandparent role is unique. She shares examples of people who have the pleasure of providing their grandchildren with perspective, wisdom, history, and the kind of acceptance that is psychological gold. Many of the stories are quite moving. One such example is the story of Danny’s grandmother, Oma, who had escaped the Holocaust as a young girl, resettled in the United States, only to go blind at an early age. Danny recalls, “She had overcome unimaginable adversity. And I think the amazing thing about it was that she was OK. She was clever, she was charming, and she was everything you want in a person. She was also blind, but she didn’t let it define her.”

Isay continues:

“Oma had a Seeing Eye dog. After the death of her husband, the dog was her closest companion and survival mechanism. In memory of her, Danny and his family donated money to train a Seeing Eye dog. They all attended the dog’s graduation ceremony and watched as she met her new owner. The dog’s name is Oma.”

The benefits of grandparenting go both ways. As parents, many us fall short of our goals because of the demands of work, marriage conflicts, money problems, and of course, our own personal shortcomings. When you become a grandparent, you have the opportunity for a redo. You can give this young generation the patience, tolerance, spirit of playfulness, and unquestioning support that you sometimes denied your own children. That can be very rewarding for the children, but it is also therapeutic and even healing for grandparents.. It can even strengthen the  relationship with children. Isay has examples of people who were better grandparents than parents, stories that many will relate to.

Being a grandparent can provide a feeling of legacy that helps us accept death. I remember being shocked when my very formal father, who wore bespoke three-piece suits and whom I never once saw in the kitchen, slung his newborn granddaughter over his shoulder with the expertise and nonchalance of a baby nurse. A few years later, I marveled at a photo of him and the kids at a Mexican restaurant: he was wearing a sombrero! The last day of his life, his youngest grandchild, then six months, sat in her infant carrier at the end of his hospital bed. Both my father and my daughter were being spoon-fed applesauce. He looked down at her from the pillows propped up behind his head and beamed.

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  • Andrea March 22, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Thank you Cecilia for bringing the role of grandparent to our attention. This is indeed a delicate balance! The importance of boundaries is paramount to a successful relationship with your children and THEIR children!