Quiet PLease

All it takes is a little TLC (“Tender Loving Communication”)

“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”

Barbara is counting the days until she and her husband, Dave, become first-time grandparents. A startlingly clear sonogram picture of their grandson in utero is the cover image on their daughter Carrie’s Facebook wall. His name will be Tyler. “I know it’s crazy,” says Barbara, “but I love him already!”

No seasoned grandparent considers the “crazy” at all.

Inside a wicker bassinet in the guest room, Barbara has collected her dreams for Tyler’s first years: a christening gown that was his mother’s; a collection of board books and stuffed animals; tiny rubber water shoes to protect tiny feet from hot sand and jagged shells.

“Dave and I always loved taking Carrie to Jones Beach when she was growing up,” she says, her eyes filling with tears. “Now we can’t wait to take her little boy.”

Like many of her friends who live near their adult children, Barbara (not her real name) has offered to care for her grandson several days a week after her daughter returns to work part-time. She is facing this new role with a heart full of love, anticipation, and no small amount of anxiety. Barbara is a very competent woman, but she’s scared—really scared—she’ll mess up.

“My own parents were extremely critical and overbearing and I HATE when I hear myself ‘butting in’ just like they did,” she admits. “Dave’s folks—they were more reserved. But frankly, I want more of a connection with Tyler than they ever had with any of their grandchildren.”

On the positive side, says Barbara, their relationship with daughter Carrie is in a good place now, after some difficult years during Carrie’s teens and early twenties. And they are cordial with their son-in-law and hi skin. Still, Barbara frets, “My friends keep telling me there’s only one sure way to stay welcome on your children’s and grandchildren’s lives:

‘Keep your mouth shut and your wallet open.’

A lot of the experts seem to agree! But do you really need to ward a permanent muzzle to be a good grandparent? Because, frankly, I don’t know if I can manage that!”

What do you think?