When we interviewed women for our book, Love for Grown-ups, we discovered that by getting married later in life, many brides became first-time mothers at the same time many of their friends were experiencing empty next syndrome.
Though there are many things about parenting that are the same at any age, one thing that is unique to "mature moms" is that generally both sets of grandparents aren't so young, either. Many women found themselves facing the reality that their children's grandparents weren't going to be there through the years as their children grew.
We asked these women how they were handling this and to give us tips on keeping memories of grandparents alive for children who won't have the gift of years with them...
o Take Pictures - Make sure you take lots of photos of your children with their grandparents. When they are gone it is a tangible reminder for your children (and you) of how much they loved them -- does anyone beam more at a child than a grandma or grandpa?
o Record their voices - Have the grandparents record themselves reading one of your child's favorite stories. There are books out now that have that capability. Make sure you don't let your child get confused that there is a 'ghost' speaking -- make sure they understand about things being recorded.
o Memory as an ingredient - Is there a favorite family cake, casserole or recipe that always shows up at family events? One Garter Bride told us that her mother had a pound cake recipe that everyone loved and always requested at parties or holidays. She learned how to make the cake and now continues the tradition. Her children refer to it as "Grandma's Pound Cake".
o Stories - In this age of instant everything and speaking in 148 characters or less, nothing replaces reminiscing and telling stories that make a person come alive. Tell happy, sad, funny, charming stories about your parents to your children. Perhaps point out some of the characteristics they may share with your parents.
o Use their expressions - OK, as much as we hate to admit it, lots of our 'Mommyisms" came from you know who -- our mothers! Even if you swore you would never say 'Because I told you so," or "Heaven help me," you know you do. Give them credit -- "Grandma used to say that to me, too and you'll probably say it to your kids." Make it work for you!
o Keepsakes - One Bride told us that her mother gave her daughter a beautiful necklace for her first birthday. The necklace was not baby-sized, but a locket that she could wear into adulthood. She told her daughter that she wanted her granddaughter to have something to remember her by as an adult.
o Share your feelings of loss - One of our Brides told us that "When my child has a good grade in Math or a graduation or any kind of success I feel the loss of my parents. I wish I could call them and share the happiness. I let my child know this by telling them how proud I know Grandma or Grandpa would be and wish they were here. I think it's a teachable moment to let your kids know you miss your parents."
o Cultivate Relationships for Your Children - If you've been an older bride and parent, you know that life doesn't go according to a script. Keep your antenna up and encourage relationships for your child that are 'a generation up' -- it's lovely for your children to have the wisdom, acceptance and fun that these relationships can provide.
• How have you kept memories alive in your home?
Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Lampl and Tish Rabe are the authors of Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides' Guide to Marrying for Life When You've Already Got a Life, a relationship guide for women over 35 on how to find Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness. The Garter Brides are a sisterhood of women who got married later in life and wore the same garter at their weddings! They offer tried and true advice on how to have the love and life you want.