When our daughter, Rachel, was expecting her first child, friends who were already veteran grandparents promised us that we were going to love the experience. “It’s all of the fun and none of the responsibility” was the typical refrain. Of course, there’s a degree of truth to that, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story.
For me, the genuine wonder of grand-parenting comes from perspective.
As a young parent, I was often so busy providing for my children and tending to their day-to-day needs that I failed to appreciate fully the transitory nature of their childhood. And then, too suddenly, they were grown.
As a young parent, I tended to idealize my children and to have unrealistically high hopes that they might avoid some of the mistakes and the pain that had colored my life. And then, I watched them struggle.
As a young parent, I worked hard to protect my children from harm. And then, I saw them suffer.
Today, when I gaze into the eyes of my grandchildren, I understand that the huge place I now occupy in their worldview will necessarily (and rightly) diminish over time. So, I gaze more intently.
When I read or tell a story to my grandchildren, I understand that the narrative of their lives will, far too soon, become more complex and cloudy. So, first, I try not to rush; and, I emphasize (and relish with them) the simple wisdom the stories seek to convey.
While playing with my grandchildren, I really try to “play.”
And, when I hear my grandchildren cry, I sometimes cry too.