Raising children is as tough as it is rewarding. You will always be a mother or a father. But being a grandparent is a lot more fun. And, in fact, it appears to be a universal joy — just ask others about their grandchildren and see how they respond!
Consider these invaluable benefits for members of the grandparents’ club:
Forget rules and routines. Kids want to have fun — and you’re the person to share it with. Your unique position in the family attracts natural adoration from the grandchildren. After all, you love them no matter what, no expectations or requirements. They’ve passed the test by being born. Your situation is ideal for becoming best friends and confidants. They can confide in you because they expect emotional support rather than rationality and behavior lessons.
As a grandparent, you are a friend with special power. You are a friend who can make little hurts feel better. Better yet, you are a friend who can reach the cookie jar!
Being a grandparent is the best excuse to be a kid again. Although your grandchildren might guess that you’re 100, they have no concept of what that really means. To the contrary, they will naturally assume you have the same preposterous amount of energy that they do!
Poetry often describes youth as the age of wonder. So shed your preconceptions and join your grandchildren in staring at the clouds. Explore every leaf and twig on a tour around the same old block. Get reacquainted with the child in you. Children make you young at heart.
Children don’t care what you do in the real world. Oh sure, teenagers might be impressed that you’re a Supreme Court justice, but mostly they’ll appreciate you for being yourself. You can relax and enjoy yourself with these people who love you mainly because you exist. You can drop the outside roles and pretenses. If you value yourself, the children will value you as well. In turn, you’ll value yourself more and realize, after all this time, who you truly are.
Contrary to popular belief, close family relationships create independent individuals, whether they are six or sixty. The emotional support acts as a secure base from which you can leap into the world and fly. With this security, you’ll find yourself more self-reliant, more active, and more social than ever before. No longer are you defined by your work or marital status: you are a grandparent, a well-loved and respected member of society. You are free to do whatever makes you happy.
Since you are not constantly in attendance, “photograph” the happy moments with your grandchildren in your mind. You can ignore negative situations by creating a happy memory to remember them by. Let’s say your birthday picnic was rained out, your son and his wife fought all day, and your granddaughter had a noisy tantrum. Recapture that exquisite moment when she helped you blow out the candles then hugged you with all her might. Later, take that picture out and enjoy those warm fuzzy feelings again. When someone asks how your birthday was, you can say it was wonderful.
Everything you do is special, by definition. So you can teach your way of doing things. Not bad things, just the usual things — but your way. A little power goes a long way. Setting the table, making the bed — there are many different methods for even ordinary tasks. You can let your grandchildren in on a special technique and chuckle when you hear them tell their parents they want to do it grandma’s way.
Keep in mind that fun with you encompasses a wide range of activities. Something described as a “chore” at home or “work” at school can be “fun” with you. Teaching your grandchild how to write thank-you notes falls well within the fun category as long as it is an activity shared with you. Your smile and enthusiasm can be infectious.
Learn new skills without embarrassment. So you’ve never quite caught up to the computer age? No problem. Your grandchildren will be thrilled to teach you. They get to show off and be the experts — you get to learn without pressure. In return, you can visit the putting range together and teach them how to play golf.
Enjoy dressing up for somebody who truly appreciates your essence! Many grandmothers make a special effort to dress in bright colors and fun accessories. No need to throw away that Mickey Mouse watch — your grandchildren will love seeing it on you. Keep those wardrobe cast-offs for playing dress-up. Clothes and accessories have a new life with grandchildren.
Grandchildren will bring you and your child closer. Your children may be grown, but this is the first time you can truly enjoy an adult relationship with them. In the world of parenting, you are now peers. Once your child becomes a parent, they’ll see you in a different light — one of respect and, yes, appreciation. You relate at a new level, one of friends — they may actually call you now, for advice or just to chat.
Grandparents live longer. Have you heard the statistics that show married men live longer than unmarried men, because they are loved and taken care of? Do you know a couple who passed away within weeks of each other? Human contact is vital to us all. We live for love.
What did you think when you first looked into your grandchild’s eyes? Immortality? Completing the circle of life? Until you experience your grandchild, you have not yet experienced everything, and this experience is worth the wait. Love is everything.
Now that you are connected with the future, doesn’t every little thing seem related to one grand scheme of things? Whether or not you practice a formal religion, the existence of some higher power is likely to be in your thoughts. You have experienced the essence of nature itself.
Many grandparents initiate the habit of bedtime prayers. It can be the start of a spiritual bond between you and the forces that brought you and your grandchild together. No other time may seem as peaceful as when your grandchild says her prayers and you tuck her safely in bed. It establishes a very special relationship between the two of you.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.