Finding your place as a grandparent in a millennial world



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“All food is neutral.” I’ve had this comment lobbed at me by my daughter, the mom to my two-year-old grandson many times. It’s always in response to me saying something like, “Good boy! You finished your peas!” or, “If you finish that broccoli, I will give you another cookie.”

Heads up, grandparents. There are no good foods or bad foods. Dessert is not a bribe. If they don’t eat it, but they do play with it, they’re discovering texture, not making a huge mess.

I say all of this with a smile because I do think a lot of the new parenting techniques that millennial parents are engaging in are good, and they work. Darn it.

Take their sleep strategies. Instead of never waking baby, you wake that peaceful little one if they’re sleeping during their “wake window.” You make them sleep in total darkness. Stuff towels under the door, garbage bag the windows, total darkness. You use sound machines. You don’t, under any circumstances, use blankets or crib pads. They sleep in sacks, the equivalent of a Snuggie for baby. Yes, as a grandparent, you do all of this, too.

And guess what? They sleep. Originally, I thought they got lucky with the first baby because all of this worked and he was sleeping through the night — like actually 10 to 12 hours, not the fake three-to-four-hour sleep-through-the-nights I used to talk about — at about four months. But when it happened again with their second baby, I realized they were maybe on to something.

Could it be that science works, versus old wives’ tales and traditions…even in parenting?

When I had my kids, the idea of brandy to help them settle had gone out the window, but I did use alcohol-based gripe water. Did we sterilize everything? Well…most things.

When I had my kids, we certainly were using government-approved car seats. Were they more of a bucket than a car seat? Maybe. Did I strap them in with just a seatbelt in the front passenger seat? Perhaps. In the middle of winter were they wearing a puffy snowsuit in that car seat? Most definitely. Did I ever check the expiry date on a car seat? Were there any? Did I let them sleep in the car seats? Heck yes.

Car seats today have expiry dates. You don’t put a jacket, let alone a whole snowsuit, on a baby in a car seat because the straps will not be tight enough to hold the baby in should you be involved in an accident. You would never let a baby sleep in a car seat now; there have been reported deaths.

We had our chance to try out our strategies, and now it’s their turn. And they are taking it pretty seriously. Of course I thought we were as well.

But this is the thing: Our job as grandparents is as it always was—to support our children, even as they are parents themselves.

I’m not always the bigger person but I can admit when I’m wrong about certain things. I admit that I like the new parenting strategies. But I also can’t deny that when I’m the only one in the room with my grandson Owen, he might get an Oreo when he finishes his nutritional yeast-sprinkled tofu. And I probably say “Good boy!” when he does.

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