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A friend of mine recently had her first grandchild. OK, her daughter had the baby - in the process making her the Grandma. She was telling me how much she was looking forward to watching her granddaughter once her dauther returned to work.

Sure, it is an indescribable joy to spend time with a grandchild of yours - but as she described the scenarios she was looking forward to (quietly rocking with a sleeping baby on her arm) - I didn't have the heart to tell her the truth - grandparenting is hard work!

Grandkids, in the real world, spit up, have exploding diapers, throw 2-year-old tantrums and sometimes just cry (and cry). So, here are my 5 Grandma-tested ways to make that precious time enjoyable:

1. Get in shape (or at least get organized)

My kids all have two-story, lovely homes filled with stairs. If you are unprepared for your grandparenting time, you might find yourself- as I recently did - going upstairs to get a diaper, then upstairs again because you didn't realize you were out of wipes. Then, you guessed it, upstairs a third time when I found out my grandchild had "blown out" of his diaper and needed a change of clothes. You get the point. Get organized - round up everything you might need - before you need it.

2. You are not the parent - your child is.

And, you need to respect that fact. I was still nursing those dreams of peacefully rocking my infant granddaughter - which was totally coming true - when her mom came in and said "She's sleeping?! Wake her up! If she sleeps now, her whole schedule will be off, she will be crabby - and so will I."

Your child is the parent. You can disagree, advise, suggest - but in the end, your child sets the rules for this child.

3. Read about it.

Educate yourself. Current thinking might not match what you did. And, yes, I realize your kids turned out just fine. For instance, we fed watered down baby cereal to our babies as early as 8 weeks. Current recommendations are only breastmilk or formula until at least 4 months - some say 6 months old. Research and the times has changed many things.

4. Your phone should be close-by.

Take pictures. Lots of them. Selfies are great - you and the baby / toddler / teen. Text these to your child. Trust me - you will not be able to reach your phone with your free hand, foot, remote control - if it is out of reach. You will miss some precious memories for you, your own child and your grandchild.

5. Find kid-friendly crafts, activities or programs.

Nothing stinks like a bored two-year-old in a house geared to only adults. Spend a little time finding fun things to do nearby. Take a walk, collect leaves, go to the car-wash together. My grandson even loves to go grocery shopping. He gets his own cart and helps me find things on the list.

Keep an area or bin of inexpensive toys appropriate to your grandchild's age. I indulge my love for garage sales by looking for gently used toys. You can also stock crayons, colored paper, glue sticks or stickers. Add games appropriate to age and interest - "match" games, checkers or something more complicated like Scrabble for the older kids.

Yes, it is hard work. But, I wouldn't trade a single second of it for anything!

Sue Klein

Sue is a mom of two, grandmother of four and daughter to her own mother. She blogs about all things 'grandma.' ...

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