How To Be A Marvelous Grandparent

Dalene Vickery Parker

When I grow up, I want to be a grandpa!” announced our 3-year-old Daniel in a recent conversation. Though his goal for life seemed a bit unusual at this age, it was easy to understand his choice. After all, in Daniel’s eyes a grandpa was the best kind of person to be-unhurried, attentive, strong, generous, playful, knowledgeable . . .

Daniel is not the only one who admires his grandpa, or his “Granny-Ma,” “Mimi,” and “Nanny,” either, for that matter. So do I. Not only do I admire them; I also envy them a bit for the freedom they have to enjoy and be enjoyed by their grandchildren. But at the same time, it’s not really as easy as it seems. For while grandparents seem to know instinctively how to please and get along with their grandchildren, learning how to please and get along with the parents of those same grand-darlings is not nearly so smooth an operation!

It can be done, however, as Daniel and Susanne’s grandparents have proved with love and diligence. And because “when I grow up” I also want to be a grandparent, I’m already giving some thought to what that goal requires. Sure, the fun part will come naturally, but the discipline of my mind and values will not, so I’m going to start working at that even now!

Respecting Space
First of all, when I’m a grandparent I will try to remember how I felt as a young parent. Accordingly, I will try not to let my entire world revolve around my grandchildren. I will, of course, make myself as available as possible when needed, but as busy, happy, and productive as possible when not needed.

Our children’s grandparents occupy themselves with church and social activities, travel, and upkeep of home and health. Yet they are always willing to baby-sit or help with errands and housework when asked. They even seem to sense the times their help is needed when not asked. Providing the right balance of space and support takes skill and practice. So does the next goal.

As a grandparent I will try to ask before I give-at least about the “big stuff.” Most young couples can use some help providing for their children’s needs, but may become resentful if the grandparents are too pushy or too generous. Who knows? Maybe too much giving makes the parents feel inadequate or even goes against their value system.

I recall a few occasions when my parents asked if it was OK to give the children a new toy and I felt free to respond, “Sure, as long as you keep it at your house!” Parents have to live with the children’s toys too! Grand- parents may also want to buy the children fancy clothes, while the parent would prefer easy-care playclothes. As a grandparent I will try to remember that what I give and how I give it matter.

Need for Control
Therefore, as a grandparent I will solicit suggestions from the child’s parents as to needed/desired toys, clothing, etc., particularly for special occasions. That way, if the grandchild doesn’t like my gift, or if the other grandparents duplicate, it won’t be my fault! More important, including the parents in the decisions about gifts helps them retain their need for control and makes them more receptive to the grandparents’ generosity.

The next step will probably be a hard one. When I’m a grandparent I will try not to push my grandchild’s parents to do things the way I did them. Times change, and so do methods of child rearing. Each generation is responsible for acting on the best wisdom available at the time. I will try to respect and support my children’s methods. It is their turn to parent-we’ve already had our turn!

Seasons of Joy
When I grow up to be a grandparent I will expect some old traditions to change, and I will try to accept the new ones as gracefully as possible. It may no longer be my privilege to be awakened at 5:00 a.m. Christmas morning by little ones too excited to wait for sunrise. Instead I may get to sleep until noon because my brood won’t arrive until evening. Or perhaps I’ll even have to settle for celebrating a week early-or late. Whenever the time, I will remember that the important thing is being together. After all, it will be to my advantage if the children come (or invite me) when it’s most convenient for them. That way I will not be responsible for any messed-up schedules or any chaotic scrambles to see all the kinfolks in one day. I would rather spend an uncluttered, unhurried day with my loved ones a week before or after a holiday than to be given the leftovers.

Perhaps the most important thing I can do as a future grandparent is to pray for my grandchildren every time I think about them. Not only will this be an effective way to interact in their lives on a daily basis, but it should prove a great stress reducer for me as well. I can appreciate the joys of grandparenting to a much fuller extent if I turn the worries over to Someone Else!

Finally, when I grow up and become a grandparent I will try to remember where I put this article! Once I find it, I will tape a copy to every fixture that brings my precious darlings to mind: my Bible, my toy box, my refrigerator, my telephone, and my checkbook, to name a few!

But until I’m a grandparent I need to get back to the task of parenting… Now, where could my keys be? I should know better than to leave them within a toddler’s reach … No, Susanne, we can’t eat paper. Spit it out, please… Daniel, the walls are not intended to be coloring books . . . Yes, you may have a pop-pop, but after lunch . . .

Ahhhh, grandparenting, here I come!

Copyright © 1993 Dalene Vickery Parker.

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