When it comes to dealing with our grandkids, my wife and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum. She is all about supporting rules and parameters set by their parents while I tend to give them whatever they want and let the parents deal with the fallout when they get home. The one thing we agree on is you have never experienced perfection until you become a grandparent. For a grandmother, there will never be a more handsome or better mannered young man than her grandson, and for a grandfather, a granddaughter is the perfect confirmation of heaven and angels. Unfortunately, grandkids are not all perfection. They have issues, such as growing up, that can make grandparenting extremely difficult.
It is not fair, but like puppies, grandchildren grow up. Growing up does not diminish a grandparent’s love for a grandchild, but it does wreak havoc on the number and quality of hugs and kisses a grandparent receives. As grandkids grow older, they start needing more personal space, which grandparents do not always understand. They sometimes take it personal, but a sixteen-year-old is simply repulsed by old slobbery lips. That a teenager would rather be with his/her friends than eating cookies with grandma and listening to grandpa talk about milking cows is a no brainer. The older they get the more independent and less slobber absorbing they become. Grandma and grandpa are no longer super heroes with a bottomless cookie jar or inspiring stories of flying with Peter Pan and joining the Foreign Legion as a boy. As they grow, a child’s universe expands, which means grandparents are often relegated to playing second fiddle to sports, dance, movies with friends, slumber parties, church, and school events. Even on the increasingly rare occasions the grandkids visit, grandparents find themselves sharing time with Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and text messages that are as continuous as the waves at the beach. It is a sad fact, but the older the grandkids get the less grandparents see them. There should be a law that says grandchildren between the ages of birth and eighty must call or visit their grandparents at least once a week.
Another problem with growing up is it becomes harder and harder for grandparents to spoil their grandkids. Let’s be real, the only purpose in life for grandparents is to pander to the whims and fancies of their grandkids. Take that away from them, and all that is left are old folks living for the sake of senior discounts, bingo, keno machines, and eating the buffet at Shoneys. The only thing that keeps grandparents kicking and off the respirator is pampering their grandkids. Functional grandparenting is just that simple. However, spoiling grandkids as they grow older is anything but simple. When they were little, a piece of candy, a cookie, a quarter maybe a dollar, or a bottle of green slime found on sale at Walmart were all that was needed to keep their attention. However, as they grow into teenhood, attention decreases in direct correlation to the tightness of their jeans! The tighter they wear their jeans the harder it is for them to focus and the more expensive the toy or bribe it takes for them to show grandma and grandpa the time of day. I don’t know why; maybe, tight jeans restrict oxygen to the brain.
One of the most traumatic issues grandparents deal with as the grandkids grow older is the fear they’ll take art lessons. Imagine grandma’s refrigerator void of hearts cut from construction paper with squiggly “I love Mawmaw” and “Pappaw is the best” scrawled across them. Think of her refrigerator without pictures of stick people holding hands in front of a red house with a purple sky. Grandma’s refrigerator without grandkid art would be like a colorless rainbow; it would not make sense. However, that is what happens when the grandkids grow older and take art lessons. Their art becomes refined and more intricate, which is wonderful, but it comes at a cost; it loses its innocence. It is like replacing the Lascaux cave drawings in France with the latest decorator wall paper. There is joy in the new, but there will always be that nagging sense of loss. For grandparents, that equates to their fear of being painted out of the picture.
A child’s first Christmas toy is a grandparent; they’re lovable, huggable, and easy to manipulate. That is the way it should be, and the way grandparents want it to be, always. Grandkids are grandparents’ second chance to get it right, and grandparents will face off against the world to make sure nothing messes up that chance – not even growing up. Honestly though, grandparents take great joy in watching their grandkids grow up, but at the same time it reminds them that, like their children, growing up means moving on, and that is not easy for old codgers who have moved as far as they care to go. Therefore, my wife and I have but one thing to say to our grandchildren – come see us as often as you can and bring a hug. Don’t worry about squeezing too hard; grandparents don’t break easily unless left alone.
©Jack Linton, March 7, 2017