I love this grandparent role. It outshines being a parent a hundredfold.
First of all, I am way smarter now than I was when I was a parent. Back then, I had these crazy expectations of my children. But with my grandchildren, I sit back and just watch the show. I let them tell me who they are, rather than me telling them who they should be.
I don’t worry about the judgment of others as I did when I was raising my own children. The problem with that kind of worry is that one may react more out of reaction to the judgment than out of the child’s real need in the moment. So a grandparent may be the first to notice when a child needs to be heard or is hungry or tired and may stop the adults from talking so much to pay attention. Grandchildren love that.
Grandchildren don’t have the ability to pull my strings the way my children could. Some grandparents may disagree with this, but really, I have a longer-range view of their lives than I did with my children. So it is easier to say “no” because I know they will survive a little disappointment. I know my limits so it is easier to say “yes” because I am better able to measure my abilities.
My grandchildren rarely have to say, “But you promised!” because my children have taught me to be careful about promises. I can follow through on the promise to always love them, but I know that sometimes life circumstances are such that I can’t do what I told them I would do.
My grandchildren seem to like hearing what I have to say. When our children are in the process of breaking out on their own, sometimes “on their own” means “everything except what my parents tried to teach me.” Not doing what parents want makes them feel more independent, I guess. I get that. But, I watch my adult children today and note that much of what they believe and do today is what my husband and I wanted for them…they just needed time to figure out what fit and what did not. I get that, too. But with grandchildren, I am one of those influences outside of their parents. Never mind that what I say may be exactly what their parents are trying to teach them. The fact that I am not their parent makes them feel freer to listen.
I have learned to say to a grandchild, “I was wrong” or “I am sorry.” When I was raising my children, I somehow equated this with surrendering authority. Boy, was that wrong thinking!
Grandparents have already tried what parents are doing – making a living, trying to figure out their children’s education, struggling with the marriage thing, scrambling to make family time, trying to balance the duty to family, to work, and the duty to self…all that stuff that causes anxiety and confusion. We know that some outcomes suck and some are terrific and that we have less control over that than our egos want us to believe. So grandparents can relax when things start to spin. We can be the eye of the storm, sit and read a story to a child no matter what is happening. Grandchildren need that. And grandparents need to be needed, too.