Doing Family Right

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Parenting: 5 Things Wise Grandparents Do

5 Things Wise Grandparents Do (and why Grandchildren Rock!)

Had I known that grandchildren would be so much fun, I would have had them first.

This often-quoted humorous expression warmly shows how deep the usual feelings of attraction and affection can be toward these new little ones within the family. But until you’ve had a grandchild, you really won’t understand this.

Much like having your first child, you can’t explain it until you’ve experienced it. The unique event of the birth of your first grandchild creates an immediate new connection. There is an explosion of joy as the gift of life is given. I believe it is multiplied by something to do with the realization that ‘my kid is having a kid’. There’s a ton of admiration with an armload of intrigue. How will they be as a parent? How will they adjust?

Yet somehow the grandparent sensation is still far more than that. There are changes to our life circumstances that impact us like the empty nest, retirement and physical adjustments related to aging. Further, a good bit of existential growth surfaces as we answer questions like what is life about or what is truly important. These perceptions and alterations allow us to love the next generation even more. I will try to relate why I think grandchildren rock – why they do give us so much joy? Why does it seem that we almost enjoy them more than we did their parents? Here are five central reasons that make sense to me as I envision my eleven grandchildren and my deep love and pride of each one.

Grandparents are off the hamster wheel.

Starting a family while beginning a career comes with a price. Remember when you had your children? You were busy—both mom and dad. It’s a struggle facing the pressures of bills, careers, kids, mortgage and more. Day after day you keep going. Round and round, head down and running hard, you faithfully work to get ahead. Your children—you love them—but they too are part of the commotion. They need to fall in line. There’s no way around it. It makes for long hours and often a permanent state of exhaustion. It’s easy to be so busy the first round that we don’t fully enjoy our children. But in the grandparenting stage, the rat race is largely over. You don’t feel the push or the pressure the same to make ends meet. The demands of work are lessening allowing for more discretionary time. Grandparents with less life preoccupations now can simply give more attention to their grandkids.

Grandparents appreciate the cycle of life.

As you start seeing your children having children, you recognize that a new generation is beginning. You still remember holding your kids, now parents themselves, in your arms. You relive it all again. You have witnessed infants becoming toddlers, then school kids, and then exploding from teenagers to self-regulating adults. Wow! As you look back—it feels like it went by fast—far too fast. If your children only knew how swiftly the time goes; how important each day is! They don’t get it. But you do. You have memories of your parenting. You hold many significant moments mixed with a few flashes of regret. You realize that you are experiencing what your parents felt. And so, the cycle of life continues. Yes, another generation has started and you just moved up one. This realization sobers you into a keener awareness of how this happens. People don’t stay as babies. Each life will be shaped. These kids too will grow up. This mindfulness of the cycle of life causes grandparents to engage with greater purpose and resolve.

Grandparents enjoy the part-time role.

As indispensible as you think you may be, don’t be fooling yourself. You had your time. Your children have the primary responsibility for raising their children, not you. At least they should have. We as grandparents should bring only supplementary support. The next generation is your kid’s responsibility. You certainly don’t have the last word and shouldn’t. Besides, it’s so much easier to interact with grandchildren when you aren’t the primary disciplinarian. You can be the nice guy. You can sugar them up and still send them home! Perfect. And in response to any encouraging time spent with them, they love you unconditionally. It’s so awesome. By not being the primary caretakers, we take on a new and significant role. We become the endorsers of parental direction and models of life. We can take them in doses and since it’s not all the time, we can make it a great time. Be there in every way when you are with them. Love well when you are with them. Laugh, hug, play, listen, encourage, guide, instruct and enjoy it all—part-time!

Grandparents have time to breathe.

With each additional year of life, we end up having more time at our disposal. Why? We are winding down—wrapping up careers, shortening work hours, and embracing retirement more and more. We are slowing down—going for walks now not runs and even taking a few naps. We are wearing down—having more aches, more pains, old injuries and arthritis. We are also running down—can’t hear the same, see the same, smell the same or taste the same. Every one of these changes affects the pace of life for us. So we can slow down more easily and simply breathe life in—you know, smell the roses and all. That’s where grandkids come in. We as grandparents can enjoy the little things again. We can marvel at the moments of discovery of adventure and of victory. But be careful that you chill. Don’t become a grumpy old man! Don’t get so finicky about little things that aren’t really that important. Take time to love, to play, to listen, to appreciate, and to encourage. Get to their events. Read the books. Offer childcare. Play checkers and blocks. Go on hikes. Have sleepovers. Build puzzles. Get on the rug and tickle and wrestle. Catch ladybugs. Whatever, use your time wisely.

Grandparents know what’s really important.

We have been through this child-rearing thing before and a quick review allows us to realize what we’d do differently if we could go back and do it again. Our priorities would likely shift somewhat. You could say that we might have learned something having gone through this season. We have found that time counts. Moments matter because life is made up of many moments. We have found that people count. Relationships matter because life is made out of great relationships. We have found that faith counts. A living vibrant spiritual depth becomes one’s key anchor in life. Discovering what is important in life drives our priority shift. Our belief about the use of time, the value of relationships and the centrality of faith shapes who we are in the 2nd half of our life. Our priorities of life have changed. We do things differently. We see things differently. And we must share those key differences. In doing so, we influence the next generation. For this reason, the importance of being a great grandparent can’t be overstated.

Why not join me in making Psalm 22:30-31 your prayer as a grandparent.

“Our children will also serve him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done…” from us – their grandparents!

I’d love to hear from you. Share you perspective and stories about your journey as a grandparent.

© Dr. Dave Currie – March 2016