I don’t know about you, but when I was in my 40s the last thing I was thinking of was becoming a grandmother. Heavens, I didn’t even know how to knit! My daughter, however, had other plans, and just after my 47th birthday she gave birth to a little boy. Well, I was delighted, as one should be, but I didn’t know how I should relate to this new addition to our family.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved him with all my heart. He was cute and did funny things babies do. However, I worked full-time in my dog training business, and was writing children’s books in my spare time. I spent my days in jeans, a shirt and boots training, walking or working dogs. I went out a lot with a wide range of friends, and I drank. I was sure this wasn’t what grandparents were supposed to do.
What are grandparents supposed to do?
Since that time, and two more grandchildren, I have often thought about my role as a grandparent.
You see we have so little to go on. Our parents were good grandparents, and our grandparents did their best, but so much has changed. Today, grandparents are wealthier, healthier and tech-savvy like never before. My maternal grandmother lived in poverty in Dublin. My paternal grandmother raised seven children on her own in the UK. They were both so old by the time I came along I never really got to know them.
When I was growing up, I had a picture in my head of what a grandmother should look like. She was old, soft, loved to bake and knitted a lot. She smelt of Lily of the Valley and wore comfortable shoes. She was kind and generous too, and she would make me feel like I was the most important person in the world. Where are the grannies of old?
Today’s grandparents are those things, and so much more. They have a lot of spare time, some still have careers, others volunteer and more importantly, many want to develop a strong relationship with their grandchildren so they can pass on their knowledge, values and love.
I may have been underprepared, but I knew I wanted a lot more than what my grandparents got. I wanted to create great memories with my grandchildren. I wanted to share adventures and experiences. I also wanted to make a positive impact in their lives, and, I also had to figure out how I was going to do all these things myself.
What I have discovered so far on my grandparenting journey is that you have to be prepared to give a lot of your time. If you bring gifts all the time kids will soon get bored and not appreciate you. If you stand around and scratch your head, they won’t see you anymore because you will have faded into the background.
I started planning what kind of relationship I wanted to have with my grandchildren after they came along. I think I would have been better prepared if I had started before. Still, there is no time like the present!