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Grandparents Need a Village Too!

Ginny  with Owen
Grandma Ginny and her grandson Owen

Grandma and her grandchildren

by Meg Butterworth

It was a beautiful spring day when Ginny Miller made a life changing decision to move to Seattle.  A recent widow and new grandmother, Ginny was ready to relocate from St. Louis, MO, where she had lived with her late husband, Bob, to the Pacific NW. It was time to start a new chapter in her life.

Just seven months earlier, in September 2010 Bob had been diagnosed with cancer.  Two months later their first grandchild, Noah was born to their son Michael.  Being brave new parents, Michael and his wife Christi flew to St. Louis to introduce their eleven day old infant to his new grandparents.

“Bob was so grateful to see his first grandchild before he died in mid-January, 2011,” Ginny recalls.

By the spring Ginny found herself in Seattle’s Discovery Park, awed by her spectacular surroundings.  She knew she wasn’t going to stay in St. Louis.  Being a long-distance grandmother living far from both her sons was not what she wanted.  However, Austin, TX where her oldest son, Brian lived was too hot.  As with most out-of-towners, she feared Seattle was too rainy, but on this particular day  (the kind that reminds us all of what a gem the NW is) she was convinced otherwise.

It’s now been two years since Ginny laid down new roots in Seattle.  Comfortable and at home in a Madison Park condominium, she has embraced her new city and her new role as a grandmother (not just to one grandchild but now to three).

Being a Grandparent

“Fantastic!” was Ginny’s first response when Michael told her that he and Christi were pregnant.  She and Bob were ready to be grandparents.  In their 60’s, most of their friends had already made the transition to grandparenthood.

“Being a grandparent is one of the best things to happen in my life.” Ginny confided.

She finds joy in being a mother and a grandmother to all of the kids, her sons, daughters-in-law and their children.  She has also been able to observe definite differences between her experience raising children and that of her sons. She’s been struck by how much more her sons and daughters-in-law play with their children than she and Bob did.  She doesn’t remember spending as much time with them while juggling household chores and a part-time job.  Fortunately, she no longer has to juggle as much as a grandmother.

“All the times I was unable to pay attention to my children when they were young, I can with my grandchildren now.”

Ginny has also been impressed by all of the information and resources that are now available to parents via the internet. At the same time, she notices how busy parents’ lives are today and thinks that so much information ends up creating more stress since it becomes one more thing to “add to the list to check.”

Grandparents Need a Village Too!

Living so close to her son Michael and frequently visiting her son Brian in TX has allowed Ginny to be present for so many special moments in her grandchildren’s development. She’s tickled when her grandson, Noah excitedly asks her if she’s brought cake and library books every time she comes to visit and she loves watching her granddaughter, Claire learn to walk.  Babysitting her grandchildren is a “high point.”  She fondly remembers waking up Colin from a nap and being greeted with a cheerful toddler variation of, “Why, Hello Grandma!”

Still, there are times when she is challenged and unsure of what is expected of her.  When should she volunteer parenting support?  Or is it best to wait to be approached by her sons?  How can she make sure her responses to certain questions from her grandchildren are age appropriate?  When her daughter-in-law, Krista, told her about the PEPS Grandparent Happy Hour, she was eager to check it out. Already familiar with PEPS and how it’s been a tremendous source of support for Michael and Christi, Ginny was curious to see how it could help her.

Ginny attended the first two Happy Hours held earlier this year and found them to be “fun and informative” offering a “diversity of ideas.” Tables were set out and labeled for “New Grandparents,” “Long Distant Grandparents” and other categories, allowing grandparents to mingle and chat with others who fell into these areas. After time to socialize, the group moved into grandparent “highs and lows,” replicating a longtime and much beloved PEPS tradition.  Jan Faull, a renown parent educator, author and child development specialist and former parenting columnist for the Seattle Times was a guest speaker at the first Happy Hour and facilitated a discussion, which Ginny found to be particularly valuable.  Listening to some of the questions and topics raised by other grandparents not only made her more aware of how varied grandparent roles are but also made her relieved to know that her experiences are shared by others.

As I listened to Ginny describe the format of the evening and the questions raised by grandparents she and I had to chuckle.  We realized how similar the needs of grandparents are to those of parents and how silly it is to think that being a grandparent doesn’t come with its own set of hurdles. You’re still a parent, but as Ginny described, you’re now a parent to “all of the kids.”  Being a parent never ends, it just shifts.

Overall, Ginny was pleased that the Happy Hour was open to all grandparents and really showed “what being a grandparent involves.” She looks forward to attending the next Happy Hour on September 10th at Verity Credit Union.

Understanding the demands and challenges of parenthood, Ginny said she likes to think of herself as “a friend and kindly advisor and helper when things seem tough or frustrating — sort of a teacher and a consistent emotional anchor point in a world so full of rapid change.”

Since moving to Seattle Ginny has created a new community for herself through her volunteer work at Taproot Theater and membership at the Mountaineers Club.  Attending the PEPS Happy Hours and meeting other local grandparents will no doubt broaden her community and build her “village!”

About The Author

PEPS FamilyMeg Butterworth lives in NW Seattle with her husband and two children. She joined PEPS in 2006 and still meets with her group to celebrate and share in all of parenting’s joys, surprises, challenges and curveballs.

She enjoys writing, cooking, gardening and catching up on all of her favorite shows while the kids are in bed.  She has volunteered for PEPS as a group facilitator, fundraiser and more recently as a contributor to the PEPS Newsletter.

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