There was a time when I would have thought that being a grandfather was for old people. Either my definition of “old people” changed, or I was really stupid. Or both.
Today I have a t-shirt that proudly proclaims “Grandpa since 2010.” Somewhere along the line I became smart.
I love being a grandfather. I love being with my two grandsons. I love playing toy trains with the three-year-old. I love the expressions on the one-year-old’s face when you walk in the door, the expressions that say, “Who are you? Do I know you? What are you doing here?” I love hearing my wife say “I saw the two grandsons today, and the first words out of the three-year-old’s mouth were ‘Where’s Grandpa?’”
I also know that spending time with them will eventually result in a very good night’s sleep, a nap, or both. Grandchildren require energy – a lot of energy.
My mother was almost exactly my age when she watched our three-year-old while we spent two weeks in Europe. And the three-year-old was a bit more intense than his own three-year-old son is today. I don’t know how she managed it. Two solid weeks.
In The Secrets of Happy Families, Bruce Feiler says that grandparents “are often considered second tier in families, but there’s a striking new body of research that says they’r a primary reason humans were able to live in families.”
Grandparents help raise their grandchildren, he says.
Grandparents reduce stress for parents (especially when they’re not criticizing) and help create more well-adjusted children.
The more involved grandmother sin particular are, the more involved dads are, too.
Grandparents teach social skills like how to cooperate.
While parents lead in disciplining negative behavior, grandparents encourage positive behavior.
And yet I did know. Watching my son and daughter-in-law, I remember my own days as a parent of small children. When you’re a parent, you’re caught up in doing, for yourself and for your children. When you’re a grandparent, it’s all about being.
Feiler cites three things – three jobs – grandparents can become expert at.
Offload siblings: When our one-year-old grandson was born, we packed his older brother off to the zoo, giving Mom and Dad time to get to know the new baby, and his brother the opportunity to know he was still a major presence and wanted.
Be an escape valve: Grandparents can give grandchildren a perspective (and respite) their parents often can’t.
Hover: Hovering parents often lead children, especially older children and teenagers, to rebel. Hovering grandparents, probably because they’re not around 24-7, allow older children to feel cared for and worried over. Older children cut their grandparents some slack that they would never think of giving their parents.
Who knew? I thought it was all plain fun.
Over at The High Calling this month, we’re reading and discussing The Secrets of Happy Families. Since this week’s group of chapters includes the one on “the sex talk,” I suspect you’ll learn a lot from the discussion.