A couple weeks ago, an author’s assistant contacted me to see if I wanted to check out Jane Isay‘s new book, Unconditional Love. I love reading and have been on a big parenting-book binge lately (you know, three pages at a time, over the course of eons because it’s so hard to find time to read these days), so I said yes!
So I got a free book. And I’m writing about it in exchange. But that’s it–my opinions are my own.
And the short version of that opinion is, I wish I’d had this book to give my parents when we first told them we were expecting, three years ago now. I’d have told you to read this book even if I’d just chanced across it at the library.
There are thousands of books on becoming parents, yet despite the huge role grandparents often play in a growing family, I haven’t come across (or honestly thought to seek out) any books about grandparenthood.
Isay’s book fills this gap by helping elucidate some of the friction points in the evolving parent-grandparent relationship (“Enough with the ice cream!” “Why do you have to bring a pile of presents every time we see you?!” “What’s the big deal if he stays up a little late tonight?” etc.) in a way that, I think, honors and respects parents’ prerogative without discounting the vital and unique role grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives.
While Isay’s book speaks to grandparents directly, I got a lot out of reading it as a parent. I also handed it off to my parents–who live across the street from me, and who have flourished as grandparents even while we’ve butted heads on some things–for their take, and they both really enjoyed the book, too. My mom even commented that it would make a great gift for announcing to one’s parents that you’re pregnant.
Both new parents and new grandparents can feel incredibly vulnerable and defensive (new parents, because they’re trying to find their footing and find so many “hills to die on” as they make decisions for their children, and grandparents, because they’ve been there, done that and want to help–and feel that rabid affection for their grandchildren that can hardly be contained), and Unconditional Love sets a neutral ground for some really tough conversations.
Isay employs storytelling to get her points across, so while it feels a little like therapy to read, it’s not your run-of-the-mill, dry and unrealistic self-help book. Her stories (both from her own life and from other grandparents’) conjured a lot of memories for me, both in my own childhood and now, with my kids.
If you’re a parent, or approaching parenthood, I’d highly recommend gifting this book to your parents and/or in-laws. And if you’re a grandparent-to-be, I can’t think of a much better way to show your child that you’re committed to rising to the occasion by picking up this book and taking notes.
One more thing–Isay opens the book with this beautiful, heartrending poem. So I didn’t get past the first page without crying. I miss my grandparents so much, and am so grateful that I had their time and love and stories, that it reminded me just how important it is to do the work to give my children that same gift.