THE ROLE OF GRANDPARENTS

A friend recently asked me what I see as the role of grandparents today.

For those of you who are at the stage of life I am in you are grandparents and it is worthwhile to reflect on what it means to my wife and myself what it means to be a grandparent and a step grandparent.

Mentors

I like to believe that now I am more patient than I was when my own daughters where young. When the grandchildren spill something I can tell myself it was an accident and get them to help me clean up the mess. I can use the experience to teach them natural consequences. This is the first role I see as a grandparent, to be a mentor and teacher. Let your own life experiences guide you in showing your grandchildren, and sometimes your own children, how to live life. By the time you are a grandparent hopefully you know the difference between what is important and worth getting upset about and what is not.

We can take the time to listen and play with our grandchildren to pass on to them some of the things we have learned about life. When you are doing something as simple as playing a child’s game with them you can pass on your values about things such as being a good sport, playing by the rules and how to talk with others. To explore their intrests. My oldest grandson still has fond memories of the time when he and I went down in the basement and built a village out of some old paper I had on hand. Such play can ignite their imagination and creativity. Today he is an artist and designer.

Share time together doing something you both enjoy. When my middle grandson comes to visit from Orlando he and I love to go out to lunch at a different barbeque restaurant everyday for lunch. He and I both enjoy music and listing to each other’s collection on our IPods.

My granddaughter thought it was great that I was willing to go shopping with her while she tried on jewelry. The few minutes of standing around in the kids store with her was worth the smile on her face when we went home.

I am still proud I was the one who taught my youngest grandson how to laugh.

Each of these are examples of how by spending quality time together builds relationships. By taking some time with them I can be a meaningful part of their lives.

Family traditions and heritage

My wife’s family has shown me the importance of passing on family traditions. It is interesting to hear them talk about growing up and even though there is a twenty-year age spread between them, they share many of the same memories of growing up. The traditions range from something as simple as making homemade ice cream with everyone taking a turn turning the crank, to how they celebrated Christmas.

Now many of these traditions are being on to the grandchildren and great grand children as they are growing up.

In recent years my parents have begun tracing our families heritage and have been passing their findings on to the grandchildren and myself. Too often only scraps of stories survive from the distant past but even these are interesting antidotes. Such as one about a distant relation who was sailing to America, hiding under the skirt of a woman on shipboard while the British searched the ship for sailors. Then how latter he married her.

Before he died my own great-grandfather wrote an autobiography that has been passed on to my children. We can all learn to take pride in our own family stories and pass them on to the next generations. My father has been writing down some of his memories and passing them along from time to time in emails. One of his favorite memories was of a road trip he made with his grandparents just before World War II. They drove from Kansas City out to visit relatives in California. On the way back they came across the dessert and up into Colorado. He still remembers his grandmother kept their cash in a bag on a string dropped down the front of her blouse.

A few years before my mother died I made a video recording of my mother talking about her past and gave each of my daughters a copy. After my mother died my wife and I took my two daughters out for the day and after lunch we sat around and I told them stories about their grandmother.

Support for your adult children

Sometimes our own adult children can use a little support from us. Parents of newborns especially may need a little break from the demands of caring for a baby twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. By offering to spend sometime caring for the baby you can give them a break and give you some baby time.

When the children get older having them spend the night with you can be fun for all. I still can remember getting to go spend the night with my grandmother. She and my step-grandfather would pick me up in her big old Desoto and take me to eat at a restaurant with dark blue windows. Then we would go home and stay up late watching TV. In the morning she always fixed my favorite breakfast, pancakes. I don’t know what my parents did but I had a great time.

Many first time parents turn to their parents for advice on childcare and parenting. Remember thought to be careful about how you give advice, especially if they are not asking for it. Unwelcomed telling them how you would do it different can be upsetting.

In some cases grandparents may be faced with what to do when your own children are not able to meet the needs of the grandchildren. My suggestion is that you be very cautious about when and how to help out. Some of the tough situations can range from finding out your adult children are having finical problems to marital problems. Then there are extreme situations such as a death. Whatever your family faces it is important to treat everyone with respect and avoid being judgmental.