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176 pages
Aug 2003

Off My Rocker: Grandparenting Ain't What it Used to Be

by Gracie Malone

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My Children’s Children

When your newborn grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, you’re hooked for life. —ANDY ROONEY

ONE MORNING the phone rang persistently as I dried my hands on a kitchen towel and located the receiver buried beneath a pile of magazines. It was our oldest son, Matt. “If you hurry,” he blurted out excitedly, “you can make it for the birth of your grandson.”

I jumped in the car and headed for the hospital—a drive that would take almost an hour.

As I sped down the highway from our rural home near Greenville toward North Dallas, my mind drifted back to the time when my first child was born. When sharp labor pains woke me in the middle of the night, the thrill of becoming a mommy—a dream I’d cherished since I was old enough to cradle a baby doll in my arms—was suddenly overshadowed by the reality of giving birth. I was scared silly as I grabbed my overnight bag and set out for the hospital. However, as soon as I settled in a bed in the maternity ward, the labor slowed down and I spent the next twenty-four hours trying to get the process started again.

While I waited, Joe, my nervous young hubby, paced the floor and tried to concentrate on the out-of-date magazines in the lobby.

Instead, he found himself hugging the porcelain throne in the men’s room as his nervousness hit his stomach! Even after my labor resumed, I think Joe suffered more than I did. Every time I felt a pain, the doctor gave me a whiff of gas and I dozed into a peaceful sleep.

Joe, on the other hand, suffered vicariously with nothing to anesthetize his pain. Eventually, at the doctor’s suggestion, he went outside and took a nap in the backseat of our ’57 Chevy. He came back just as the attendants whisked me off to the delivery room. The next morning I woke up from a drug-induced state and discovered I’d given birth to a six-pound, eleven-ounce boy. We named him Matt.

Joe assured me little Matt was just fine. He’d seen him—through the thick glass of the nursery window. Not until five days later, after we brought the baby home, did he get to hold his son.

Mothers of the little ones born in that hospital were granted a few more privileges than the dads were. Still, every decision rested in the hands of the hospital staff. When the nurse determined I was alert enough to hold my newborn—more than twenty hours after the baby’s birth—Joe was ushered out of the room and little Matt was brought in and placed in my eager arms. He was tightly swaddled in a blue blanket. Even his arms were pinned down in a fold of flannel. I have to admit, seeing my baby looking like a pint-sized mummy brought out the rebel in me. I removed the diaper pin holding the bundle together and allowed him to wiggle and stretch freely.

But as soon as feeding time was over, I quickly repackaged my baby and handed him over submissively to the nurse.

After five days, the doctor declared me well and competent—at least enough to take our baby home.

Two years after Matt was born, we had another son, Mike, and a few years later yet another, Jason. I had become the mother of three little boys, none of whom caused me much discomfort at birth. They were literally born while I was sleeping. Even though I had given birth three times, I could still say with Prissy of Gone With the Wind, “I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ babies.”

My, how things have changed in the maternity ward in just one generation! Today moms know everything about “birthin’ babies,” and daddies do, too. The emphasis is no longer upon pain-free delivery but on “natural childbirth.” I remember my mother talking about home deliveries done the natural way, so this new concept seemed like a step back in time to me. To be honest, the idea of allowing nature to take its course wasn’t all that appealing to me—until I witnessed the natural process up close and personal.

When I arrived at the hospital, I whipped into a parking place, pushed through the double front doors, and headed down the hall marked “Maternity.” Rounding the corner into the waiting room, I spotted Matt decked out in hospital scrubs with a surgical mask hanging loosely around his neck. Apparently, childbirth classes had prepared him to be a fully participating member of the delivery team.

“Follow me,” he whispered as he opened the door and escorted me into the birthing room.

My daughter-in-law was nestled in a contraption that looked more like Joe’s recliner than a hospital bed. She was tired from the hard work of labor but fully awake and smiling as she extended a tiny bundle in my direction. “Want to hold him?” she asked.

Yes! Of course I did.

Gently taking the baby from his mother’s arms, I felt my heart warming up to this hands-on style of “birthin’ babies.” Baby Luke was warm, wiggling, and obviously only minutes old. I’d forgotten how small a newborn baby is, barely big enough to fit in the crook of a woman’s arm. As I pulled him close, I was suddenly overcome with love, joy, hope, and a swelling sense of pride—the same feelings I’d experienced when I held my own newborn sons. I choked back the lump rising in my throat.

I examined the tiny features of my newborn grandson: slate-blue eyes straining to focus in the soft light, a perfect heart-shaped mouth, and a tiny upturned nose. I folded back the corner of the blue flannel blanket to get a look at his ears. The moment I saw them I felt joy rising in my soul like bubbles in a glass of champagne. My grandson was sporting a matched set of the family ears—carbon copies of his daddy’s ears, miniature versions of my own.

Ours are rather handsome ears, if I do say so myself—a bit on the small side with a tiny crimp on top. As my finger traced the rim of those splendid ears, the family “earmark,” so to speak, I marveled at the wonder of God’s creation.

The words of the psalmist came to mind: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it” (Psalm 139:13-14, NLT). Some biblical scholars describe the developing baby as “intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors]” (Psalm 139:15, AMP). The thought that God, the awesome Creator of the universe, had been intricately involved in the design of my precious grandson—from the tip of his toe to the crimp of his ear—brought tears of joy to my eyes.

I lifted the tiny bundle close to my lips and whispered against the soft folds of skin, “Luke, I’m your grandmother. I love you. I always will, no matter what.”

In response, he stretched and yawned, then turned his face toward my bosom as if to ask, Got milk? Since my answer was an unspoken but obvious no, he immediately took matters into his own hands—literally. He brought one tiny hand to his face, slipped his thumb into his mouth, and started sucking. He lifted his other hand upward and touched the side of his head, right above his left ear, as if to say, Nice ears, huh, Grandma?

I couldn’t hold back an outburst of joy as I realized this wasn’t the first time I’d seen Luke make that gesture—not on this unforgettable day, but in a video of a sonogram Matt had brought to our house months earlier.

I remember how we all gathered around the television screen and observed in rapt silence little Luke’s movements, his tiny body only six inches long. He twisted and turned in the embryonic fluid as if he were swimming in a warm bath. After a few moments we were not only convinced he was a boy, but we were also captivated by his charm. His hand moved close to the camera and we counted five little fingers. One hand went to his mouth. Then his tiny thumb, smaller than a pea, brushed across his lips and slipped into his mouth. His other arm stretched upward, his hand touching the side of his head.

As I saw him make this same movement on the day of his birth, my heart overflowed with the purest form of love I’d ever experienced.

The tiny baby we had adored while he was still in his mother’s womb had made a grand entrance into my world and stolen my heart.

With the birth of this little boy, our family had come full circle, making our own revolution in the great circle of life. A new generation was born that day—one that would bear our name, and, besides that, one that would proudly display our ears!

The family dynamics changed dramatically with the new addition. Without even applying for the job, everybody assumed new roles, complete with new titles. My son was now Luke’s Daddy. My hubby had become Grandpa. Our other two sons were Uncles. And I had become a Grandmother. With the title came an overwhelming sense of responsibility. I wanted to be the World’s Best Grandmother.

Yet I actually knew very little about grandparenting; I’d never read a book or taken a course on the subject. In the years to come I would learn more about my role, little by little—mostly by trial and error and lots of prayer.

Since Luke’s birth, I’ve been in the waiting room during the arrival of five additional grandchildren. Luke became big brother to Connor. They welcomed two little sisters, Mary Catherine and Abby. Our son Mike and daughter-in-law Jeanna presented us with two little boys—Montana and Myles.

Each child came into the world with his or her own unique characteristics and temperament. Each came with a unique story that I hope to tell one of these days.

Speaking of storytelling, nobody tells the story of her birth better than our youngest granddaughter, Abby.

Shortly after her fifth birthday, I pulled her onto my lap, kissed her on her forehead, and said, “Abby, I remember when you were born. I was there. You were the cutest little thing. . . . ”

At this point, she interrupted boisterously by exclaiming, “I know, I know! I was in my mom’s tummy trying to get out and my mom was puuushhhing and puuushhhing.” Abby let out a huge grunt, “Aaaaarrrrrrgghhhhh!” With wild hand gestures and an animated tone, she continued. “Then I gave her two big karate chops—Yahhh, Yahhh—and out I came.” She brushed out a wrinkle in her skirt, grinned, and added, “Ta-dah!”

Ta-dah, indeed!

Seems this grandma still has a lot to learn about “birthin’ babies”! I’m grateful I live near my adult children and have been present each time a grandchild was born. Unfortunately, some grandmothers do not have that privilege. Maybe you live a long distance from your children and heard the greatly anticipated announcement over the phone. You may have children who adopted your precious grandchild, and the birth announcement came a few days after the baby’s arrival.

I also realize that some babies are born in circumstances that are less than ideal. Thousands of single moms give birth every day without a loving coach to stand beside them and encourage them. And some babies are born with medical problems that cause confusion and pain not only for the parents but for the grandparents as well.

But regardless of the circumstances, there is much to celebrate with the birth of any child. Every single one of them is designed, like an intricate piece of colorful embroidery, by the loving hands of the Master Designer of the universe.

Your precious grandchild is God’s priceless work of art—and someone to be cherished.

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:3-4, NASB)


  “On grandma’s lap” is one place in the world where every grandchild should feel totally accepted and perfectly beautiful. In today’s society, too much emphasis is placed upon physical perfection. Even very young children begin to worry about their size and physical features. Grandmothers can be a stabilizing force in this area. Compliment your grandchildren. Talk about God’s creativity and the uniqueness of each of His children.

  Collect memorabilia concerning the birth of each grandchild. You can compile these in a scrapbook or keepsake box. Include the birth announcement, newspaper clippings, and the church bulletin. Newspaper or magazine articles that show the culture or current events at the time of your grandbaby’s birth will be interesting to the child later on. When your grandchild becomes old enough to appreciate it, share the contents of your keepsake box with him or her.

  Compile a journal of your thoughts about the day of his or her birth. Or, write a letter to the child, telling about your feelings and thoughts. When the child is older, read your journal or letter or present it on the child’s sixteenth birthday.

  Talk with your grandchildren about the day they were born. Tell them how you felt, what made an impression on you, how they responded to your touch. Talk about how other family members reacted to their birth.

Grandma’s Tips


1. Offer to stay in the waiting room with the siblings during the birth. Pack a bag with healthy snacks and a few carefully selected toys for the kids to play with while they wait. Include books, coloring books, card games, and even a Nerf ball or Nerf frisbee to work off pent-up energy.

2. If the parents prefer, be willing to keep the older children at home. Plan some games or special treats to make the day memorable.

3. If you live out of town, send the siblings a care package with the same kinds of toys and nonperishable snacks.

4. Offer to help after the new baby comes home from the hospital. Let your children make the call about how long your visit needs to be. For some new parents a two-week visit might be right; others can’t wait to tackle the parenting role on their own.

5. Be careful about giving unsolicited advice. Remember the new mom is a walking kettle of hormones and is also tired and emotional. The best grandmas will give the new mom plenty of support and emotional space, not reading too much into her moodiness or her need to be alone or to nap.

6. Prepare a few nutritious, not-too-fattening meals for the new mom (and other family members). She will probably be ready for some food that will nourish but also help her begin to shrink her waistline.

7. Stock the freezer with easy-to-prepare foods from the grocery store.

8. Offer to run some errands, such as picking up the cleaning or a few items from the store.

9. If you purchase a gift for the new baby, bring along a small gift or book for the other children as well.

10. Take the older siblings shopping so they can buy a gift for the new baby.


When our grandchildren arrive, all the maternal instincts we possess rise up in our souls once again. We not only want to be with our grandkids to enjoy them, but we also feel an overwhelming need to protect them and see that they get the very best in life. As we deal with these complicated emotions, there is no greater comfort than knowing God is watching over and caring for our little ones. He loves them more than we do! And He is intimately involved in every aspect of their lives.

Psalm 139 tells us in vivid detail just how much He sees and knows them:

    O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I  go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

    If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (1-12, NIV)

• He sees when they sit down or when they stand up.

• He knows their inward thoughts—the motions of their minds as well as their bodies.

• He is beside them in their running and resting.

• He is with them when they are awake or asleep.

• He sees everything they do, whether it is done openly or secretly.

• He knows their words—spoken and unspoken.

• He goes before them and behind them.

• He holds them in His hand wherever they are—on a mountaintop or in some deep valley, soaring above the earth in an airplane or traversing the bottom of the ocean floor in a submarine.

• He sees them in the darkness and in the brightest sunlight.

    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (13-16, NIV)

• He created their innermost longings and passions as well as their outward features.

• He formed their shape and substance—their “frame” (tall or short, strong or frail) as well as their mental faculties and personality traits.

• He directs the pilgrimage of their lives—from before they were born until the end of their days.

    How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. (17-18, NIV)

• God thinks about our grandchildren continually—thoughts without number, beginning in eternity past and continuing until the end of time.

• He is always with them. His love is infinite.