“Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go …”
When we prepare our homes and hearts for the arrival of family, friends and loved ones to visit, there is great joy and anticipation. We are welcoming our newest family members – one year old twins – to our home this year and I am just beside myself with excitement and planning! I’m fortunate that my own to-do list includes many thoughtful suggestions from moms that I work with at Isis. So I’m passing along a few ideas that grandparents and others might consider as you prepare for your upcoming visits:
- Ask the parents what might be most helpful – in advance. Whether traveling a short distance or by airplane, it may be especially helpful for you to have a few things on hand to save the new family from packing up everything they need. Do you have a quiet place set aside for baby to sleep? A portable crib or folding crib? There have been hundreds of crib recalls in recent years and it is near certain that the family heirloom that you’ve been saving in the attic would not pass a safety inspection today. Where will baby play? You can create a safe, clean spot with a few play mats and developmentally appropriate toys. What about mealtime? Consider renting, borrowing or purchasing a new high chair so baby can join the celebration. Bumbos and Bebe Pods should not be placed on the table or countertop for safety. Will it make the visit easier if you have a supply of their brand of diapers, wipes, and other baby basics on hand?
- Make your home safe and welcoming. Take a step back and consider how much stress you may eliminate with the installation of a few baby gates, safety products and thoughtful repositioning of that bowl of cocktail nuts. It may be momentarily uncomfortable to declare a new “no smoking policy” in your home, but it’s far less awkward when the host advocates for the safety and well-being of all of your guests. The evidence of health risks for pregnant women and children with exposure to second- and third-hand smoke is compelling. Remind everyone of the importance of hand washing before handling baby. And remember that even the most beloved pet should never be left alone with a child under three. Pooch might even welcome a few days respite at the kennel.
- Be respectful of the new family’s parenting. A lot has changed in recent years. Babies today sleep on their backs, travel rear facing in car seats until age two and start solid foods somewhere around 6 months. It generally isn’t helpful for a new mama to hear “Are you feeding that baby again? or “Why don’t we add a little rice cereal to that bottle?” I had a conversation with a couple of fabulous grandpas in our Grandparents Today class and they couldn’t understand why their breastfeeding daughters were banished to the back room to feed. My suggestion was that they needed to encourage the breastfeeding mama to feed where she is most comfortable. And that little taste of mashed potatoes or rum raisin ice cream? Please don’t be offended if the new parent declines these delicious expressions of your love for their baby.
- Make space for new traditions! When my youngest daughter was two she had little interest in our holiday dinner. My thoughtful sister was quick to prepare something she knew Ali would enjoy and we’ve included macaroni and cheese in our feast ever since. I’m hoping to take a photo of our delicious twins next to the roast turkey on Thanksgiving, but I’ll understand if they are napping instead. And, we’ll be making a few adjustments to my traditional recipes to accommodate several known food allergies. It just doesn’t seem right to invite someone to be a guest in my home and then surround them with foods he can not eat. I’ve always hoped for a “Norman Rockwell” sort of holiday celebration, but over the years I’ve learned to adapt to whatever the day brings and to embrace each new tradition along the way.
I am grateful to all of the wonderful families I am privileged to work with each day at Isis. Seeing you with your beautiful babies reminds me of all that is good and wonderful. Hearing your stories helps me to be more thoughtful and supportive each day. And, passing along your suggestions will (hopefully!) make visiting family more joyful and less stressful for many families.