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When Being a Grandma Isn't So Grand

Donne Davis Adds Expertise of GaGa Sisterhood to Her Own Experiences

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When Being a Grandma Isn't So Grand tells how to handle conflict with the parents of your grandkids.

Author Donne Davis offers astute advice for handling conflict with your grandchild's parents.

Image © Donne Davis
I have only one sister, and sometimes I could use a few more, especially when navigating some of the trickier grandparenting issues. Feeling a similar need after the birth of her first grandchild, Donne Davis established the GaGa Sisterhood, described as a "social network for enthusiastic grandmas." Now Davis has drawn upon her own experiences and those of the other GaGas to create this slim volume packed with good advice. Subtitled "4 Keys to L.O.V.E. Your Grandchild's Parents," this book is a succinct guide to maintaining good relationships with the younger generation, who are after all our grandchildren's "gatekeepers."

All You Need Is L.O.V.E.

Love alone won't do the job, according to Davis. Instead we need L.O.V.E., her acronym for the strategies that will lead to successful relationships between the generations. The "L" stands for learning the parents' language. Chances are that the parents of our grandchildren do indeed speak a different language than we did as parents. Attachment parenting, free-range parenting, co-sleeping -- the vocabulary is different even if the goals are the same. It's up to us as grandparents to learn the terms adopted by the parents of our grandchildren. We may even need to take a grandparenting class to get up to speed. A potentially harder task may be managing not to resent the insinuation that our own parenting methods were inferior. "Every new generation thinks they've cracked the code on childrearing," Davis reminds us.

The first and each succeeding step in the L.O.V.E. process is explaining using personal anecdotes from Davis and the other GaGas. Each explanation closes with a bulleted summary and journaling prompts to help grandparents work through the topic.

Listening to Moms

The second part of Davis' book is a valuable look at issues from the standpoint of the parents. The first step in understanding our grandchildren's parents is understanding the tremendous pressure that they face. What Davis calls "mompetition" has always been around, but social networking has made parenting more of a shared endeavor and has contributed to what some see as bullying of new moms. Decisions that grandparents took for granted as our own choices, such as breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding, are now debated fiercely online and elsewhere. No wonder the parents of our grandchildren sometimes feel beleaguered, and no wonder they deeply need our support for their decisions.

It's no secret that mother-daughter relationships are turned upside down when daughters become mothers. For this book, Davis surveyed mothers about problematic grandparenting behaviors, asking them what they would like to say to grandparents. It's always enlightening to view an issue from the other side of the fence, and I think every grandmother will find something applicable in the comments from moms. One insight I gained is this: Body language speaks just as loudly as words. Grandparents are often admonished to zip their lips, but rolling their eyes or otherwise physically communicating their disapproval is potentially more hurtful. In other words, when you think you are hiding your disapproval, chances are that you aren't.

The Bottom Line

This may not be the perfect gift for a grandmother shower or other touchy-feely occasion. But this is the book that you should slip to your friends in private. Few grandparents enjoy admitting that have had conflicts with their grandchild's parents, but many of them have had similar experiences. Once you become a grandparent, it's difficult to imagine any greater pain than being denied contact with your grandchildren. The very best way to avoid such an occurrence is to cultivate great relationships with the parents of your grandchildren, and Davis' advice could just make the difference.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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