About the Book

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.

Learn what’s new, what’s still true, and what you can do.

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 wellbeing 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.

Some of the topics covered in Good to Be Grand:

  • Golden Rules of Grandparenting
  • Immunizations
  • Update on Genetic Tests
  • The first moments after birth
  • Newborn sleeping patterns
  • A new web of relationships
  • What new babies like
  • Baby essentials
  • Good news about childhood diseases
  • Today’s parenting philosophies
  • “Talk, read, and sing”
  • In-laws and Out-laws
  • Helping family pets adjust
  • Teething remedies
  • How personalities emerge
  • The joy of eating -- and food allergies
  • Grandparents as baby-sitters
  • Baby-proofing the house
  • The traits and qualities of effective grandparents
  • And more

Excerpt from Good to Be Grand: Introduction

For most of you, at least twenty years or so pass between when you become a parent and when you become a grandparent. Not only do we forget things during those years, many things also change. New medical procedures are discovered, the science of child development advances, and parenting theories transform.

When I was about to become a grandmother for the first time, my oldest son (the father-to-be) was thirty-seven and my youngest was twenty-five. That means two and a half decades had passed since I was accustomed to balancing a baby on my hip. I asked my friends who already were grandparents what I’d need to learn in preparation. They responded eagerly, but most of them interpreted my question as an expression of some kind of insecurity about my new role.

“Don’t worry,” they said.

“You’ll be great.”

“All you need to do is love the baby.”

Yes, I thought, I know I can do it. And I know I’ll love him. But where is the user’s manual for what I’m about to share with my new grandchild? How can I prepare myself to become the very best grandparent I can be?

The parenting books I found weren’t what I needed. They are too long and too detailed. They contain too much information, most of which is irrelevant for the role grandparents play. And even with all that information, what’s missing is they don’t explore the unique relationship between a grandparent and their grandchild.

We’re the grandparents—they are the parents

The reason why those parenting books aren’t right for us is that what’s essential for parents isn’t the same as what’s useful for grandparents. The most important difference of all is that, as grandparents, we are not in the driver’s seat. We’re in the sidecar. We’re not the ones losing sleep. We’re not feeling the heavy responsibility of nurturing human life for the next couple of decades. But we are coming along for the adventure. As grandparents, we are a valuable resource when the driver needs to take a nap, or go to the bathroom, or take a vacation, or go back to work—and then we need to be competent and calm in our new role.

Here are some examples of the practical differences:

  • The parents choose the baby’s doctor. The grandparents need to know how to reach the doctor.
  • The parents decide if a baby boy will have a circumcision. The grandparents need to know how to care for an infant who has been recently circumcised.
  • The parents will choose a car seat. The grandparents need to know how it works.
  • The parents will develop a plan for introducing the baby to solid foods. The grandparents need to know what they’ve decided in order to prepare for a grandchild visit.
  • The parents will formulate a parenting philosophy. The grandparents will do their best to understand—and comply with—those expectations.

The importance of the baby’s first year

As I reflect on the first year of my grandchild’s life, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned about the differences between being a parent and being a grandparent. As a mother, I love my three boys wholeheartedly. They are my sources of extraordinary pleasure and pride. But the grandmother experience is quite different.

While I learned that from personal experience, science now confirms the profound importance of a child’s first year. An infant undergoes amazing physical development during that year, and the connections formed in the child’s brain have a lifelong impact. I am so excited to be a part of that—again! As my grandson and I progressed through his first year of life, I encountered an unexpected and equally profound blessing: the opportunity to make it one of the best years of my life, too.

From good to grand

Not only are grandparents in a different stage of life than young parents, they are one step removed from the newborn. The responsibilities, expectations, and demands are so different. As a grandparent, you remember the fears, anxieties, and self-questioning (along with happiness and amazement) that came with being a parent. Standing over your sleeping baby several times a night to reassure yourself with the sweet, soft sound of breaths going in, going out. Wondering if that extra crankiness at dinnertime was masking an ear infection. Having your toddler cry when the babysitter arrived so you could go out to dinner—and going out to dinner anyway. You remember those feelings, but you don’t feel them the same way now because it’s the parents’ job to feel them. Compared to parenting, the pleasure of being a grandparent is unfettered. You can give yourself over to the moment and just enjoy. Grandparenthood is more than a not-so-instant replay of parenthood. It’s not just a chance to revisit and revise but a unique journey—interesting and challenging and rewarding, all at once.

At the same time, grandparents have told me that the birth of their grandchild makes the future personal for them. Instead of looking down the road to make sure our children have a good life and live in a manageable world, we now need to extend that care and concern further into the unknown. We have “skin in the game” to try to preserve or improve a world in which our grandchildren will live long after we are around to help them with life. So we make the most of the time we have, beginning with the moment they’re born.

As I set out to become a grandmother, I kept four goals in mind:

  1. To learn everything I could to be the best grandmother I could be
  2. To be a source of support for my son and his wife
  3. To be a significant positive influence in my grandchild’s life
  4. To have fun with my new grandchild

In short, not just to have a good experience, but to make it grand, in every sense of the word.

This book follows the major developments in your grandchild’s first year of life, from gestation and birth onward. Each chapter provides facts about what has changed about child care in recent generations, what has remained the same since our days of parenthood, and what grandparents can do to make the most of their time with their grandchildren.