Good to Be Grand: Making the Most of Your Grandchild's First Year

Good to Be Grand: Making the Most of Your Grandchild's First Year


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Becoming a grandparent is a major milestone, raising new questions, challenges, and opportunities. Prepare for this transformative stage of life—and make the baby’s first year one of the most meaningful experiences for both of you.

Good to Be Grand is the ultimate roadmap for today's grandparent, combining the latest information about infant care—from medical developments to equipment innovations to parenting practices—with honest, down-to-earth advice and anecdotes about grandparents’ special role.

Journalist and new grandmother Cheryl Harbour gets right to the point of what modern grandparents really need to know from the time they begin anticipating the birth to the end of the first year. Harbour takes the best and most relevant information from the latest research, expert interviews, and thick parenting books and tailors it specifically for grandparents, recognizing the unique bond they share with their children’s children.

Each chapter provides interesting facts and observations about what has remained the same and what has changed about childcare over the years, what you can do to support the physical and emotional well-being of your grandchild and, most important, what you can do to make the most of the experience.

With a foreword by Hillary Rodham Clinton, including her personal reflections on the birth of her first grandchild, Good to Be Grand is for smart and sophisticated grandparents eager to embark on their grandparenting journeys with enthusiasm, knowledge, and confidence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781942952329
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc.
Publication date: 04/05/2016
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 188,102
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

As a journalist and communications consultant, Cheryl Harbour has researched and written about topics as diverse as nuclear energy, education, health, logistics, and women’s leadership. About to become a grandmother, she turned her attention to finding the best information available on the first year of a baby’s life, eager to share not only the facts but awareness of the abundant opportunities for inspiration and transformation. Since 2011, she has kept a lively conversation going with women on the interactive web site she founded www.iwdialogue (Intelligent Women Dialogue), encouraging an exchange of views on world affairs, U.S. politics, modern society and health—and now she adds grandparenting to the mix.

Read an Excerpt




Let's face it. A new baby is a commonplace occurrence. Babies are born every day to people in every type of society, whether primitive or advanced. It happens to people who are ready to be parents and, sadly, to some people who aren't. No one has to have a license, a permit, or certification to be a parent.

But you must earn the right to be a grandparent. Unless you inherit a grown-up through marriage or adopt one late in life, you need to have raised at least one child, survived the ups and downs that go along with parenting, and maintained a connection with that child who is now old enough to have his or her own baby.

Grandparenthood happens at a stage of life when you may feel you are just about as smart as you're ever going to be. You've learned lessons about life, made mistakes, had some success, recovered from disappointments, and come to know who you basically are. All of those are great accomplishments.

Think you've seen it all? Think again. There's still a lot to be experienced if you're willing. No matter what you've done, where you've traveled, or how you've figured everything out — prepare to be bowled over by your new grandchild.

I write this with some certainty because I've heard the same thing from all directions. The CEO of one of the largest advertising agencies in the world ... she says there's nothing that compares to being a new grandmother. An entrepreneur who wasn't around that much when his own boys were growing up ... he now works his schedule around babysitting. A big, tough guy who never shows his feelings ... he had tears in his eyes when he saw his son hold his son for the first time — and again when his daughter had her first child. Some people don't know what all the fuss is about — all the story swapping and the photo sharing — until they have a grandchild of their own.

Still, there may be a mix of emotions at first. Surprise, if you didn't know your son or daughter and their partner were trying to get pregnant, and relief, if you knew they were. Joy ... excitement ... a little apprehension — yes, those, too. These emotions may be stronger than you expected, but don't worry — they're perfectly normal. Regardless of your initial emotions, becoming a grandparent feels important. It can even feel monumental. It marks the passing of the parenting baton from you to your child.

What will it mean to your son or daughter's life? A boatload of financial and other kinds of responsibilities? The end of carefree, footloose freedom? A sign that he or she has the maturity to bring a new life into this world? Hopefully.

And what will it mean to your life? It doesn't have to mean

"drop what you're doing" or "lose sight of everything else." It doesn't require trading in your "DREAMR71" vanity plate for "GRAMPS" or "GRAMMY." (But don't be surprised if it crosses your mind.) The experts I talked to generally agree that the best thing you can do is maintain the good things in your own life, keep what's important to you, don't make assumptions about anything, and be open to everything. What could be better at this time of life?

If you're reading this book, you probably already know you're going to be a grandparent — either for the first time or again. Maybe your son or daughter just popped the news. Maybe he or she went to extravagantly clever lengths to surprise you. Whatever way it occurred, this is beginning of all the decisions your daughter or son and their partner will make and to which you will respond. Think positively.

The point is, now you know and the fun begins. While you anticipate, you can learn and prepare. Keep reading.

Countdown to a birthday

No one has been able to alter the reality that it takes approximately nine months to have a baby. In the past few decades, pregnancy itself certainly hasn't gotten any easier.

It's still true that pregnant women often experience morning sickness — and sometimes it doesn't end in the morning but rather lasts all day. The first trimester is generally considered to be the most common time for nausea, but with some women the nausea continues throughout the pregnancy. And some other women don't experience morning sickness at all.

Experts generally agree that morning sickness has something to do with hormonal changes in the pregnant woman. The obstetrician involved in your daughter or daughter-in-law's care will probably offer advice such as getting abundant rest, eating smaller meals more frequently, taking in smaller amounts of fluid more often, and avoiding "triggers." Odors often are considered to be triggers, so be careful what kinds of meals you serve the mother-to-be.

Depending on when your daughter or son and their partner decide to announce their news, you'll have some time to prepare, too. And grandparents-to-be can definitely begin offering help and support to expectant parents.

Grandparenting is an opportunity to be renamed

It's still true that grandmothers and grandfathers often have special names, sometimes chosen according to ethnic customs, sometimes by family traditions, and sometimes grandparents even get to choose their own. Would you like your grandchild to call you Nana, Grammy, GiGi, or Ona? Gramps, Nonno, Pappy, or PopPop?

Some other common names for grandparents include:


Amma, Baba, Bobka, Bubbe, Ga-Ga, Gamma, Golly, Gram, Grams, Grandma, Grandmama, Grandmere, Lolly, Mamey, Mimi, Mimsy, Nahnee, Nanny, Ne-Ma, Noni, Nonna, Oma, and Yama


Boompa, Boppa, Bubba, Bumpa, G-Daddy. Gampy, Grampapa, Grandad, Grandaddy, Grandpere, Grandpop, Gumpa, Opa, Papa, Papí, Poppo, Poppy, Pops, Umpa, Wampa, and Zayde

And grandchildren might come up with their very own names for you ... something like YumYum or Grumpy. But what can you do?

Choosing a name for yourself can present a few landmines. One wise grandmother I talked to said she happened to choose the same name as her daughter-in-law's mother — so she quickly chose another. That was a contest she wished to avoid.

Names for the baby also can be tricky. Some families have long lineages of Juniors, Trips, and Treys, with ancestors to be honored. With most babies being given a first name and a middle name, some parents try to keep everyone happy. If the parents decide to name their baby after your father or your partner's father, be honored. If not, that's fine, too. In our case, my husband and I had fathers named Oliver Wilfred and Irving Celestin — and these days those seem like really big handles for little babies. Otherwise, we might have suggested our grandson be named Irving Oliver Celestin Wilfred Harbour. Alas, his parents chose something else. We remember our fathers with affection, but their names have been retired for now.

It's likely that your son or daughter and their partner are well aware of favorite family names. But think of the math. Your new grandchild may have four grandparents (or more), eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on. You might be invited to make a suggestion, but ultimately, the baby's name is a decision for the parents, and somehow they will make a good one.

While you wait, you might wonder

There's so much to wonder about. Will the baby be a boy or girl? Will the parents find out ahead of time or wait until the birth? How is the baby growing inside the womb, month by month? Babies still develop at the same pace and in the same ways, and if you are curious about the size and developing characteristics of the baby-to-be, you may enjoy comparing the average-sized fetus to something more tangible, such as fruits and vegetables. One side benefit of following this progression is that your empathy for the mommy-to-be will grow as the comparison begins to include a rutabaga, a pineapple, and even a pumpkin! On the opposite page is one example progression chart, based on information from


In general, people are waiting longer to be grandparents because their children are waiting longer to have babies. Partially this trend results from women taking on more involved roles in work outside the home and delaying pregnancies until the time is right for their careers. Also, financial circumstances play a role. In the United States, between 2007 and 2012, at the worst of the recession, the fertility rate fell to an all-time low. The only age group that didn't show a decrease was women thirty-five and older — and they were probably aware of the biological clock ticking.

For some grandparents, this may mean taking on this new role at a later age and watching some of their friends enjoy grandparent experiences before they do. As with almost everything else related to being a grandparent, not putting pressure on your children is a wise course to follow.

Genes haven't changed, but the science has

You probably remember something about dominant genes and recessive genes from your high school biology class. That won't be enough to let you predict what your grandbaby will look like. So much new information has been discovered about human DNA. Human beings have 46 chromosomes and an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 genes. Your grandbaby will receive 23 chromosomes from each parent. So if you are really proficient at math, you will already know that number of genes could produce 64,000,000,000,000 different combinations.

Most traits are polygenic, which means multiple genes affect different physical traits. A child's environment can also influence some characteristics — such as height, weight, and personality.

We grew up knowing that brown eyes were dominant over blue eyes, but even two brown-eyed people can have a blue-eyed child because they each might contribute a recessive blue-eyed gene — or their combined amount of melanin (the substance responsible for pigmentation) could result in lighter eyes.

In hair color, dark hair is dominant over light hair, but the genetic outcome of a light-haired person and a dark-haired person is often a blend — a hair color somewhere in between. Once again, that's because individuals have varying degrees of melanin. Similarly, the skin color of a baby born to parents of two different races frequently turns out to be a blend.

Other dominant traits — which still don't guarantee any particular outcome — are dimples, curly hair, and freckles.

Geneticists continue to explore the interesting possibilities contained in our genes. For example, there are genes that cause a person to seek thrills or be able to sing beautifully or have a talent for creativity. In most cases, you can wonder, but you won't know for sure until life unfolds.

You might get a peek before the baby is born

Thirty years ago, having an ultrasound during pregnancy was an unusual event, usually taken in case the doctor wanted to have a closer look at the fetus. And the image that resulted was a grainy black and white.

Gone are those days. Ultrasounds are now threedimensional and display a much clearer picture of a fetus inside the womb. As the months progress, facial features can be seen. You might imagine that the baby has Uncle Gerald's nose — although I confess after seeing a number of different ultrasounds, they typically look pretty much the same. Still, they are exciting to see.

Some parents have keepsake images or even DVDs made at elective ultrasound imaging boutiques. But the FDA and many medical experts discourage additional ultrasounds, except for medical reasons. The procedure is safe and uses a non-ionizing form of radiation. But it does have some effect on the body. Ultrasound waves can heat tissue slightly, and in some cases also produce small pockets of gas in body fluids or tissues. What long-term consequences this may have, for a mother or a fetus, is not known.

While you wait, you might worry a little, too

The good news is that medical advances have taken some of the guesswork and anxiety out of pregnancy, and many new tests can certainly put both parents' and grandparents' minds at ease. The parents' OB/GYN will determine what genetic tests are necessary for your daughter or daughter-in-law. Blood tests now screen for genetic disorders very accurately. Under certain circumstances — for example, if the mother is older or there is a family history of genetic problems — additional testing will be recommended. If additional testing is necessary, amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) are still the tried-and-true methods.

Hopefully, you can keep your worries in check and not let them spoil your anticipation. My daughter-in-law needed to have her appendix removed when she was six months pregnant. It turns out an appendectomy is the most common reason for a pregnant woman to have surgery (about 1 in 1,500), but it isn't something you'd wish for. I admit I appealed to every divine power I could think of — and kept a photo of the baby's medical ultrasound in my wallet, so I could send him positive thoughts. And everything turned out fine.

You'll need these immunizations

You definitely don't want the first thing you give your grandchild to be an illness, so make sure to have these immunizations before you meet your new grandchild face-to-face. Check the chart on the next page.

While you wait, shopping can be fun

Baby products are now big — very big — business, and you may be amazed at the variety of new toys and equipment available for today's parents. Here are some grand first gifts for new parents and babies:

• bassinet

• crib

• glider chair or rocker

• car seat–stroller combination

• baby monitor

• the Boppy (C-shaped pillow for nursing mothers)

• bouncer chair

• play mat with overarching toys

• white noise machine

• baby carrier or sling

• diaper bag (with plenty of compartments)

• Halo SleepSack

• e-reader (for new parents on those nights when everything must be quiet and dark)

• savings account or the beginning of a college fund

• weekly house cleaning (especially during the first months)

• gift cards for stores like Target and Babies "R" Us

• professional photo shoot

• keepsake jewelry engraved with the baby's name or initials

If you have a particular gift in mind, be sure to do a little research into its safety ratings, because a lot has changed since we were parents. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the American Academy of Pediatrics warn parents not to use a baby sleep positioner. Online retailers and parenting forums provide a wealth of information and safety ratings for various baby products. You can find safety guides for baby and child products online at And you can search for recalled baby products in this user-friendly search engine from


Imagine yourself in your new role. What kind of grandparent will you be?

Will you be hands-on or will you stay on the sidelines? Will you love this child long distance or be up close and personal? Will a little grandparenting go a long way or will you never be able to get enough? Will you be the big, soft lap kind of grandparent, always ready to listen, a shoulder to cry on? Will you be a "memorable moments" grandparent, with tickets to Disney World or Broadway?

The truth is, you will be your own unique brand of grandparent — a blend of who you are now and who you will become throughout your relationship with this unique child. You are in the perfect position to influence this child's life. You can share not only your wisdom and experience but also the things you love — whether it's reading, dancing, fishing, performing magic tricks, bird watching, sculpting, singing, baking, or filling in a crossword puzzle.

Child development experts now know that the very earliest stages of a child's life set the course for intellectual and emotional capacity. And you can be one more very important person providing stimulation, learning, and love.

You will enrich your grandchild's life because you are who you are. And because, together, you are about to embark on a great adventure.

What do we bring from our past?

We all bring to this experience some impressions, lessons, and memories of our own grandparents, so while you anticipate the birth of your new grandchild, you might want to reflect on what kinds of role models you had.

I had only one grandmother — no living grandfathers — and what I remember most are her long red fingernails and her big dining room table with its fancy lace tablecloth. She was my father's mother, and her husband died when my dad was only four years old. I also remember that Gram let her cocker spaniel, Buffer, sit on a chair at the dining room table on his birthday. Now that I've spent time in California, where dogs are often allowed to wait patiently while their owners dine in restaurants, this doesn't seem so odd. But back then, it was worth mentioning to my friends. It upped the ante on "do you believe what my grandmother did?"


Excerpted from "Good to Be Grand"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Cheryl Harbour.
Excerpted by permission of BenBella Books, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Hillary Rodham Clinton xi

Introduction xv

Chapter 1 Anticipation 1

Chapter 2 Arrival (Newborn) 20

Chapter 3 Adjustments (0-3 Months) 35

Chapter 4 Advances (3-6 Months) 62

Chapter 5 Action (6-12 Months) 76

Chapter 6 Advice (For a Lifetime) 99

Conclusion 105

Acknowledgments 106

About the Author 108

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