Louise had long been complaining to friends in her Chocowinity, North Carolina town about not having any grandchildren. The 60-year-old was even beginning to think she might never get that call. So when news came in July that her daughter was expecting, Louise wasn't the only one feeling the excitement. Says her friend Pip, "finally, we could have a get-together for Louise, who is usually the one throwing the parties." With a handful of close friends, Pip, 59, planned her first grandbaby shower.
On the day of the event, Louise tackled a large pile of gifts. Squeaky rubber duckies. A Piggy bank. A miniature floppy sun hat. Oohs and ahhs rippled through the room as unwrapped gifts were passed from one guest to the next. As they cooed at how precious the baby booties were, the women sipped on punch at this baby shower in honor of, not the mother-to-be but the grandmother-to-be.
At the end of the afternoon, the hostesses presented the gift they had pooled their money to buy: a handheld video camera. "So she can take pictures of her granddaughter and show us," says Pip.
Wait, Haven't I Done This Before?
Sure, you've been to your share of baby showers. But, who says there can't be more — or that they can't be changed up a bit? Louise is only one of a slew of grandparents who are entering this new stage of life with all sorts of merrymaking. An increasing number of grandparents-to-be are being feted by friends and colleagues with showers — even couples' cocktail parties — to honor their initiation into grandparenthood. And, it's not only occasion to mark baby's arrival. It can also be a chance to childproof long-empty nests for the pitter-patter of little feet. Yes, nice idea. But really, are grandbaby showers a trend about to take off or just another passing fad?
Grandbaby Shower: Here to Stay?
A trend, absolutely, says party planner and author of etiquette books Colleen Rickenbacher. "Our generation is in a better situation financially. And, a lot more of our children are going back to work after having the baby, so we're babysitting more and need to stock the house with gear," says the 57-year-old Texan grandmother of three.
When she and her husband's first grandchild arrived, Colleen says they bought their own crib, basinet, high chair, stroller and Pack 'n Play. "We just decided it would be easier to have the stuff so it could be set up when our grandchild arrived," she says.
New parents living far away from family agree that preparing the grandparents' house for baby makes life a lot easier — and a grandbaby shower can be a fun way to do that. "I admit that the idea of traveling alone with my daughter Maggie was very intimidating," says Stephanie, who gave birth to her daughter in Washington, D.C. last spring. "I can't tell you how fantastic it was to get on a plane to see Grandma in California with just a backpack, a diaper bag and my baby."
Stephanie's mom, Pam, who works as a school principal's secretary, was given a surprise grandbaby shower by colleagues. Along with brag books and hooded towels as gifts, she also received hand-me-downs including a portable crib, an infant car seat and stroller. Does Pam think grandbaby showers are here to stay? "Oh, I think they will hang around," she says. "It was fun — and we girls love an excuse for a party!"
Another Shower, Another Gift?
While gifts are nice, setting up a registry may be over-the-top. "I don't think it's appropriate for there to be a gift registry for grandparent showers," says Colleen. "That's too much. This should be more of a casual thing," she says, adding that the registry should be reserved for the baby shower of the mother-to-be, which will likely be a larger and more formal affair. "It's an exciting new time for grandparents," says Colleen, "but it's not our time."
Pam goes as far as to call grandbaby shower registries tacky. "I hate it when these kinds of get-togethers become too much," she says. "Just a low-key gathering is what's most fun. I don't even think the mom needs to be there."
Stealing Mom-to-Be's Limelight?
Can a grandparent-to-be's shower take attention away from the expecting mom who's spent months carrying a baby the size of a basketball? No, says Colleen, not if it's kept informal. "The key is to keep the guest list to your friends who are grandparents, or hope to be soon. Or, instead of having it on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon like the mom's shower, have it on a Saturday evening and invite couples for more of a cocktail party thing."
We're Here, Now What?
One way to entertain a crowd that may not be into gift-opening is by playing a game such as "This Is Your Life," suggests Sharron Wood, author of Baby Shower Games: Play-Sheets, Instructions, and Helpful Tips for the Hostess. Collect photos from the grandparents-to-be that illustrate different milestones — their childhood, wedding, births and other life moments. At the party, pass the snapshots around and ask guests to pipe up with stories about them. Then, ask any already-initiated grandparents in attendance to share what it's like to take on this new role — you know, of trusted one, fun one… hero?
Another amusing way to play at a grandparent shower, says Sharron, is to get the baby's mom and dad in on the action. If they aren't able to attend, ask them to send a videotaped letter to the new grandparents that can be shown at the gathering. "Whether the tone is silly or sweet, this is bound to be one of the more touching moments of the night," says Sharron.
Let's Get This Party Started
It's a whole new place. It's a whole new you. The arrival of a first grandchild is a notable occasion — one that should be celebrated. "With our friends, we're building a history together and sharing this moment of becoming a grandparent," says Pip. "We all enjoy life so much."
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.