What it Means to be a Grandparent
By Jo Ann Wentzel
I’ve given birth to two kids and parented dozens of others in various capacities but, nothing prepared me for my role as grandmom. This article was written eons ago when the parents and grandkids were much younger but, still the message is the same.
A grandmom must go beyond what moms have time to do. We must be all that parents cannot be. We must be the soft side of the issue when it is unimportant but, the hard line on values. If moms cannot find ways to stay home with their children, I believe grandparents should help. We can provide a valuable service to parents whether or not they stay at home.
Grandmas do more than pass out homemade cookies nowadays; they provide role models for fitness, creativity, and thrift. How you grandparent depends on your health and fitness, your likes and dislikes and your interests and passions. To our grandkids we must be cool adults; to their parents we must be supportive allies. Balancing this act is tough but, experience has a way of seeing you through. Parents need a pat on the back for a job well done and reassurance that you approve of their parenting style which invariably is different from your own. Kids need to feel that “Grandparentville” is a safe town, a haven where they can just be themselves.
When parents who must work come home, they are tired. Often, they have been laboring at a job they dislike; they feel guilty for leaving their kids and they are emotionally drained from the stress of trying to please the world. Granted, there are those moms who enjoy working outside the home but, even then, the uncertainty puts pressure on them. If career –oriented, the pressure may be to succeed at all costs. Sometimes, the cost is family life. Either way, these folks are not ready for the role of “superparent.” That is where it would be nice to go back to the extended family where grandparents lived in the same home. Of course, that arrangement would not be for everyone. Grandparents could take up the slack and at least give parents a moment to catch their breath before they slip back into their parent role. I’m sure not suggesting grandparents be thought of as built-in-babysitters, nor am I suggesting taking away the responsibility of parenting from where it rightly belongs. I am suggesting occasionally using grandparents or a substitute for the extra support and help that older folks can give. In doing so, you may even brighten up an older person’s day.
Once a year, my daughter and her husband used to take a snowmobiling trip up north. Before the kids were old enough to participate fully, I watched her two boys for five days. My grandsons are all grown up now but, in way past years, grandmas spent those entire five days entertaining them. We set up a schedule and posted it on the fridge. We divided each hour or so into various projects. We read, played board games, did science experiments, learned to cook, wrote skits, short stories and plays and acted them out for grandpa and returning parents. I played pretend with them. Sometimes the waterbed was Mars and we were hunting aliens, other times we decided we were soldiers and that was the ridge we had to take. We used anything we could for props and costumes, often made our own. They loved when grandma put on her camouflage shirt and joined them, crawling on the floor to maneuver under the ‘barbed wire’. They roared with laughter when we made up a silly secret weapon to rid ourselves of the Martians. My grandsons still talk about and remember when the waterbed was the hill our army wished to capture or the Martians were brought down with a weapon that caused them to laugh hysterically. When the boys were older, we spend more time on the computer and doing more grown up things I taught them fairness when playing cards and patience with my schedule. We put games away if there was too much disagreement. They learned we all need to live by some rules. I could never have done any of this unless I was at home.
They learned that “Grandparentville” was full of fun things to do. You could stay up late, eat too much junkfood, or watch a marathon of movies. They also knew they had to be reasonably quiet some times, put stuff away, and say grace before meals.
It would be great if all grandparents lived close enough to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives, and parents could use them as a role model, a source of wisdom, and the grown-up who doesn’t have to say no all the time. At-home parenting creates memories. Those moms who do need to work, must still give quality time to kids when they are home.
Till all moms who want to, can stay at home with their kids, grandparents can help bridge the gap between modern lifestyles and lasting family values.