What Grandparents’ Class Taught Me

A lot has changed, but the very basics of joy and love have not

Kris, the registered nurse serving as our host/presenter, welcomed us warmly with a bright smile. The other two dozen or so prospective grandparents filling the classroom on a recent sunny Saturday were smiling too. Why wasn’t I?

Was it because…

A) I was just weeks away from being a first-time grandfather and felt unprepared

B) All sorts of new-fangled baby equipment filled the room, reminding me that we are indeed living in a new millennium

C) I was somewhat intimidated by all the initials Kris had after her name, including IBCLC (which I was to learn later translated to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, meaning she was a health care professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding)

D) All of the above

The answer: D. Not that it mattered how I felt. It was too late to turn back now — my calm and capable spouse was raring to go, and we were sitting next to my daughter’s in-laws.

It was sobering, realizing how much had changed in the 30 years since we’d had our second child.

Not a good time to choke. Better to sit back, relax, and try to learn a few things.

Did I ever.

A Lot Has Changed

Thanks to Kris and my engaged fellow classmates, the two-hour presentation entitled “Grand-Parenting in the New Millennium” proved to be enlightening and entertaining, while boosting my confidence level. We covered new recommendations in infant care, feeding and safety, and much, much more.

It was sobering, too, realizing how much had changed in the 30 years since we’d had our second child. The titles on the handouts we were given made this emphatically clear: “A Safer Generation of Cribs,” “Grandparents Guide to Car Seats,” “Back is Best for Baby’s Sleep” and “Effective Lactation Cookie Recipes.”  You get the picture.

And then there was all the hi-tech gear — car seats that looked like space capsules, strollers that doubled as jogging companions, swaddling sacks and “miracle blankets,” to name a few. Most of our “hands on” time was spent learning to properly swaddle an imitation plastic baby. I was momentarily worried there might be a quiz (were there six steps or five?), but eventually got the hang of it.

“Leave enough room for the baby’s hips to move and that the blanket is not too tight,” Kris reminded us. “You’ll want to be able to get at least two or three fingers between the baby’s chest and the swaddle.”

That blanket still seemed pretty tight to me, but the research shows that swaddling babies and placing them on their backs to sleep in their cribs has greatly reduced infant deaths from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I’ll need to work a little more on my final fold and make sure I leave enough wiggle room for my grandson when he arrives in a few weeks!

Taking a Support Role

There sure was a lot of information to absorb in one session, but the more I relaxed, the more I realized that some of what Kris was telling us was nothing more than supportive and loving common sense.

When Kris said: “Ask yourself what you want your role to be,” I finally broke into a huge grin. That’s because I knew the answer to this one. I want to be present and helpful and supportive and loving.

And I also know I won’t tell my daughter and her husband what to do. And that I’ll try to remember to leave while I am still welcome to stay.

There was one thing we didn’t really learn in the class: Just how joyful and blissful and exceptional this experience of becoming a grandparent can be. I’ll start that wonderful journey in a few weeks.

Leaving the class, still smiling, I remembered a line by Alex Haley. “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do,” he wrote. “Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”

I am ready for my stardust sprinkling days to begin!

Doug Bradley
By Doug Bradley
Doug Bradley recently retired from the University of Wisconsin Sytem, where he was the director of communications and currently teaches a course on the effects of popular music during the Vietnam War Era. Doug is a U.S. Army veteran and the author of DEROS Vietnam, a fictional montage of war stories set during the early 1970s. He also is a member of the Deadly Writers Patrol (DWP) writing group that publishes a periodic magazine which includes work by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Visit doug-bradley.com to learn more.

Next Avenue Editors Also Recommend:

Next Avenue brings you stories that are inspiring and change lives. We know that because we hear it from our readers every single day. One reader says,

"Every time I read a post, I feel like I'm able to take a single, clear lesson away from it, which is why I think it's so great."

Your generous donation will help us continue to bring you the information you care about. Every dollar donated allows us to remain a free and accessible public service. What story will you help make possible?