So Is Grandparenting Great? Some Reflections

About a year ago I first learned we would (finally, hooray!) be grandparents. Six weeks later, we learned a second was on the way through another daughter and her husband (hooray again!!). And once the news started getting out, the thing we heard most often after congratulations (as if we had much to do with it) was “Grandparenting is the greatest thing in the world!”

It is a little hard to be talking about grandparenting as the “greatest thing” when I know my daughters and sons-in-law have just experienced a seismic shift in their lives.

I’m here to pick apart that myth just a little bit because while it has been wonderful and joyous and out-of-this-world amazing, it hasn’t all been great because, you know, they are b-a-b-i-e-s. They cry. They keep their parents up. First they refuse to nurse or latch on or latch on correctly, then they chomp down too hard and mamma gets sore (yes wow, that hurts) and daddy feels frustrated and useless and like everything has changed so much. Then they nurse all day and mamma runs dry and the doctors threaten you with the dreaded “failure to thrive” pronouncement and he’s not gaining any weight and his bottom is sore and…

So it is a little hard to be talking about the “greatest thing” when I know my daughters and sons-in-law have just experienced a seismic shift in their lives.

Now don’t get me wrong. I weep with joy when I look at the hospital infant photos on my refrigerator. Oh dear. Just the thought gets me going. I am overjoyed. What gifts. What wonderful little boys, especially after three daughters. They rock my world. We are so fortunate, I know, after wondering whether we would ever be so blessed.

Still. Now it’s teething (is the grouchiness teething or not?), ear infections, consultations for this issue and that issue and runs home from work to daycare to take a kid to the doctor because the eczema rash was looking really scary and BAD to the daycare people—all on a day when daughter is meeting with HIGH LEVEL people and she squeezes in the run—just like I used to.

And I’m happy that she gets the chance to cope with Working, Mothering, and other “Minor”Dilemmas (Word Books, 1983), like my first book examined, but sorry at the same time she has to be so stressed.

It is also hard to be a hundred or a couple hundred miles away. Let alone the other side of the world, like some. So we’re thankful for just having two and five hour drives to reconnect. We’re also grateful for Skype and Google Chat and all the other technology that allows us to instantly see new pictures of the grands or of the suspicious lump or rash.

I also know of the grief and pain many grandparents have experienced as their children and grandchildren go through trauma, whether it is divorce, loss, communication gaps, or outright estrangement. I’m aware of grandparents who are not allowed to talk to their grandchildren alone, or have a different stress when a single parent with child moves back home with parents. I’m also aware that as grandchildren grow up, you slowly become hopelessly outdated in the eyes of the teens (although one grandparent confided that the parents bear the brunt of that: you still get to be cool, while the parents suffer the eye rolls).

So no, grandparenting isn’t quite as great and fun and rewarding as I’d imagined, yet. Am I the only grandmother to say so?

The neatest thing though is seeing my daughters on the path to becoming more wonderful as mothers than I ever could have imagined or hoped. Not that I doubted they would rise to the occasion. I figured they would be just fine, but they are both so in love with their little boys and so dedicated and working so hard that yes, that is pretty cool to see.

The second neatest thing is seeing their husbands, my sons-in-law, being so intimately involved with all of the tough work of taking care of an infant, right from diaper number one. These guys (modern fathers) blow me away and their little boys are the beneficiaries of all that hands-on care and visibly expressed love. Moreover they seemed to enjoy even the very teeny tiny infant stage, even though neither one had much hands-on experience—practically zilch. Also pretty cool to see.

Maybe grandparenting is pretty great after all, in spite of the hiccups and the doctor visits and minor surgeries and detours. I do know this: two new little urchins have wrapped themselves around my heart and once again, life will never be the same. We feel so fortunate. Thanks be to God.

If you’ve never gotten a copy of my book, Working, Mothering, and Other “Minor” Dilemmas, written when these two daughters were toddlers themselves, I’d be happy to send a free copy. Write to Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, or email.

Posted 4/17/2014 7:00:00 AM

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