Yesterday was truly a birth day, as my daughter gave birth to my second grandson yesterday afternoon. (Sometimes you hear people say, “I wasn’t born yesterday,” but Charley can’t say that. He was born yesterday.) As you can imagine, it was a day of joy, celebration, love and belonging, thankfulness, and, yes, there was some concern mixed in there, too. It was so good to have mother and son healthy and cuddled together following the procedure’s successful conclusion.
Given that my grandchildren will be doubling in number, I thought it might be appropriate to think about the role of grandparents, and more specifically, how grandparents, when it comes to loving and supporting children, seem to “get it right.” Grandparents have in common that this is our second go-around with the whole “little people thing.” It’s like we’ve been given another chance to get it right when it comes to kids, or at least get it better. We learned some stuff the first time around and now is a chance, as summarized in the following list, to show what we know.
We are MORE RELAXED
We have seen it all. We survived our children and a host of their dramas, some of them real (Ok, some of them very real). We realize the journey is doable, though, and that life goes by faster than you think. Now we want to live in and enjoy the moment.
We SAVOR THE RELATIONSHIP
We recognize the importance of the relationship, and we are careful to not let children’s little mistakes and learning blunders threaten our connection with them. We are more apt to live in the moment and treasure the many ways in which children grow and mature. We are less concerned about controlling children and more aware that they are in the process of becoming who they will be.
We are MORE FOCUSED ON IDENTITY, RATHER THAN ROLL
We seem to accept that children aren’t placed on earth to fulfill our job descriptions. It is so easy for parents to want to have their own needs met through the accomplishments of their children. Children can hear early in life about the kind of role – doctor, administrator, Indian chief, etc. – they are expected to fill in society. Grandparents have learned that helping children form a healthy self-identity is much better than pressuring them into a certain role in life. Coming into a sense of your identity, of who you are and what you stand for, as a child is way better than postponing this process into adulthood. I know people in their 50s that are still desperate for this kind of self-knowledge.
We DISCIPLINE DIFFERENTLY
Well, actually we don’t discipline much at all. We joke about getting to do all the fun stuff with the grandchildren without the headaches of discipline that parents have to deal with. There is truth in this joking, but the joking hides the fact that we discipline differently, too. It’s not that we ignore bad behavior in our grandchildren. We just keep things in perspective in ways that we didn’t the first time around with our own children. We strategically overlook some behaviors, gently deal with others, and for the behaviors that just can’t be ignored we confront them in a way that will not harm our relationship.
We SEEK TO BE NEED-SATISFYING
We get accused of giving too much stuff to our grandchildren, having too much fun with them, being willing to help them in any way at the drop of a hat, and being too interested in them. Guilty. What we are is grandkid-centric. It’s not about spoiling kids. They can see through that. It’s about love and support. We literally give ourselves to them. We love to hear about our grandchildren, talk about them, show pictures of them to others, and most of all, spend time with them.
Not all grandparents are into choice theory, but choice theory gives us insight into a lot of grandparents. Grandparents have a patience and a flexibility when it comes to their grandchildren that a lot of first time parents would do well to emulate. Here’s to parents who can show up like grandparents!