The Role Of A Grandparent


I’ve just finished reading an article full of statistics about grandparents in America. Even though it seems something happens to my brain whenever I read statistics, I did manage to finish the article with at least one understanding. There are a lot of us, more than was expected, and our generation is growing.

I’m also aware that, for most of us, our lifestyle and how we go about grandparenting is different than when we were the grandchildren. We are living now in a world our grandparents could not have imagined. This creates a challenge for us, because one dependable and almost automatic way we learn to do something is by watching someone who knows how. We model their behavior, but because of all the changes that have occurred in the past 50 plus years, we find what we learned back then often doesn’t work in today’s world. We need to write a new script.

However, whenever I begin to think that we need to “reinvent the wheel,” I notice that there are also some things that don’t change. Once again I find myself in the midst of a paradox.

One of the unchangeable things is that grandparenting, at least when it is done well, seems to be a lot about love. There is a heart connection that snaps to the “on” position in a strong, but different way from when we had our own children. And it is this “feeling” loved which can nourish our grandchild and provide that extra something that helps a child’s growth. That crucial intangible was as true for our grandmother’s grandmother as it is today.

On the other hand, what we do for and with a grandchild appears to be a mixture of the old and new. We may teach a child to bake, as our grandmother might have done with us. We also might hop on a plane and whisk them away somewhere. Yet whether we are doing with a grandchild exactly what we experienced with our own grandmother, or creating some new and wonderful experience, we are connecting¬† in a vastly more complicated world. For most of us, it’s not as easy as walking across the street for milk and cookies after school. There are busy schedules,–theirs, their parents, and ours as well. Play dates and organized sports have replaced roaming the neighborhood. We live now with divorces and job transfers, remarriages and children and grandchildren living states, even countries away. In my life I have a granddaughter in Florence Italy and a friend who is raising one of her randchildren. Both situations are beyond what my own grandmother experienced.

I think the key is creativity. We plan to come up with and write about a variety of ways to “grandparent”–even the word is new. When I was a child, grandparent was a noun. Now it’s also a verb, which perhaps is symbolic of the changes that are occurring around us. We look forward to sharing more of our observations, and hearing your thoughts. Let’s start a dialog!

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