We grands are a modest lot. We don’t like to brag about ourselves, but as my own wise mother said, “If you don’t say nice things about yourself, why would anyone else?” She was trying to instill confidence, and was encouraging me to recognize my strengths and tout them to the world. That was pretty radical thinking for a girl in the 60s.
So, here’s what I contend: Grandparents do some things better than parents do.
I’m not suggesting grandparents are better parents. I’m postulating there are certain aspects of raising children that the grandparents side of the village handles in a superior way. Let’s call it grandparenting. And, about that, the word grandparenting is non-existent according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Why? I’m guessing neither Merriam nor Webster had encountered anything like today’s grandparents.
We’re just awesome and we’re original. No generation before has approached this stage of life the way we do. We work, we play, and we communicate in ways previous grandparents didn’t think possible. Some of us still work at jobs we’ve had for 40 years while others retired and “refired” with new careers. We’re in school taking classes. We’re raising our grandkids and providing them with loving daycare. We’re traveling the world solo and with groups. We’re hiking, biking, and motorcycling. We’re sculpting and painting and making mosaics. We’re meditating and doing yoga and learning how to play the banjo. Hell, we’re even running for president. That’s how we roll.
So, we’ve developed a skill set that sets us apart from our kids, aka our grandchildren’s parents. That’s why we do some things exceptionally well, even better than our children do.
1. Play. My four-year-old grandson will attest to this: neither Mommy nor Daddy can hold a candle to Grammy when it comes to playing “Chase me.” It’s not that the game is so complicated — I simply run after the kid laughing uproariously while I complain that he is too fast and I can’t catch him. Then, I gently tackle him and we fall to the ground, both of us laughing. The grand finale is looking at the clouds and identifying the shapes we see. Why do grandparents excel at play? Parents work all the time, they work at work and when they’re home, they work at parenting. It’s really hard to find time for the luxury of play. When grandparents are with grandkids, we are off duty, work-wise, and play is our strong suit.
2. Worry. Sure grandparents worry but we do it quite differently than parents do. Why? It’s the wisdom that comes with age. We know what parents don’t yet know: No, your kid is probably not going to Harvard and yes, your kid is going to survive the slings and arrows of the mean kids, the exclusion from the cool kids, and the inability to be the best athlete on the field. She will still be strong despite the fact that the coach doesn’t play her often enough. He will get sick often, especially when he first starts school or day care and he will likely get better soon despite how horrible and scary that cough and high fever appear to be. We know these things.
3. Bedtime. Reading the “Little Engine That Could” repeatedly, night after night is taxing on parents. It’s long, it’s repetitive, and its coolness factor is next to nil. But it’s a book kids love to hear, probably because it is so long. Maybe it’s the concept of a train loaded with toys and goodies headed their way that appeals to little ears. And, maybe you are a parent who loves that book but somehow the title your little darling wants every night is a book you can’t stand. In fact, if there is one book in your little one’s library that just drives you up a wall, I can assure you that is the one your sweet cherub will love the most. You’re tired; you’ve had a long day. You love your child but just want to read one short, sweet tale and get to the hugging and kissing part of good night. We get that. But grandparents don’t have that need. We don’t read nightly so when we do, we are happy to make it last as long as possible. We’ll read The Little Engine… and then, we’ll say, “Do you want to hear that one again, Honey?” And, speaking of bedtime, after we read the story and hug and kiss our little love goodnight, we leave the room and let the kid sleep. Know what many parents are doing? They’re staying in bed with the kid and either sharing a bed all night long or staying until the little one falls asleep. Grandparents know something some parents haven’t yet learned. The kid will fall asleep. Eventually everyone does. Your kid does not need you to spend the night in their bed. In fact, the sooner you leave, the better off everyone will be.
4. Reprimand. I know what you’re thinking; you don’t believe there’s a grandma on the planet who will correct or speak harshly to a little love. Wrong. We do it, same as any responsible adult. We don’t let our grands touch the hot stove or run into the street or trash our house. But when we reprimand, we keep in mind that the infraction will probably not lead to a career in crime and we can quietly and calmly make the punishment fit the crime.
5. Google. This is one of the ways in which grandparents are far superior to parents. Parents will Google “how to toilet train,” or “dealing with picky eaters, or “help, my kid is obstinate.” Then they will twist themselves into pretzels trying to follow all the good and yet conflicting advice. Grandparents simply don’t use Google to find out how to be better at life. We’re just that good. And, if we do stumble upon some good grandparenting advice, we just laugh and talk about how do it better.
Want to learn more about today’s grandparents? Check out Real Grands: From A to Z, Everything a Grandparent Can Be. My mother would be proud. I wrote nice things about all grandparents! I just told the truth.
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