Valuable lessons in grandparenting
These last few weeks I’ve had a big dose of grandparenting. My youngest daughter, on the East Coast, had a child-care emergency. My wife and I were able to pitch in and take care of her daughter, Orly, who is a delightful 2 years old.
We were in grandparent heaven—especially the first day where we were in a constant state of delight. By the last day, I was still in grandpa heaven, but like I’d been warned, and ignored, I was completely exhausted. My shoulders were killing me from hefting Orly here and there. A few days after we returned to Seattle, my other daughter and granddaughter, also 2 years old, came for a four-day visit. Now I know what heaven must be like—although it will probably take me a week to recover.
I don't have to tell grandparents how lovely it is to behold the next generation. It’s like eating a banana split, piled high with whip cream, topped with cherries, drenched in caramel that has no calories. What could be better?
Moms and dads—your day will come. It’s a long wait, but it’s worth it.
Sadly, my kids live in distant ports. While I dream that they will someday return to the Puget Sound, modern life is in the way. Jobs, opportunities, and their partners form obstacles that are beyond my control. I know many grandparents who have moved to be closer to their children—maybe someday I will join that legion. But for now, I can only dream.
I want to help my children. Their lives seem more complicated and demanding than my parental life. They work longer hours, their employers have more expectations, they are buried in work emails, and everything is more expensive. While my wife and I struggled over how to raise our children, we didn't have access to thousands of pages of internet advice. We weren’t buried under a vast storehouse of information.
Grandparents can be important resources for both grandchildren and parents. I was very fortunate. My grandmother lived with us for much of my childhood. She was a great help to my parents and I adored her. We played cards for hours and she never tired of me, no matter how annoying I could be. She died at a relatively young age, 69. All these years later, I still miss her. And my mother played a big role in my children’s life, despite living far away. So, I have hope.
I did learn a couple of useful lessons during my stay in grandpa heaven.
Don’t freelance, follow your kid’s instructions. Parents have all of the responsibility and therefore they get to call the shots. They’re in charge—not you. Yes, when you’re on duty you do have to make independent decisions. But today’s parents have their own ideas about how they want to raise their children, what they want them to eat, when and how long they should nap, and a thousand other details. Just because you were a parent doesn't give you any more authority than your next door neighbor. Do what your told with a smile on your face. Trust is earned—it’s not a given.
Set limits. With today’s “intensive grandparenting,” grandpa and grandma may be helping out with childcare, transportation, housecleaning, and money. It can be overwhelming and exhausting. It’s great to help your children—but don’t neglect your own needs. Don’t be afraid to say “no.”
I’m still cleaning up after my granddaughter’s visit. I forgot how little kids can tear through a house like a tornado.
But I don’t care. I’m still smiling from ear to ear.