03 Jul Becoming a Grandparent
by Michael Popkin
On May 14, 2019, my wife, Melody, and I became grandparents of an 8½ pound baby boy. Our daughter, Megan, whom some of you may remember as the ten-year-old girl reciting the Ages and Stages poem in our earlier version of Active Parenting: First Five Years, was the enthusiastic mother in this real-life production. Her co-star, Jordan, was also an Oscar-worthy “supporting actor.” None of this is big news on a national scale. After all, becoming grandparents is so commonplace, why even bother mentioning it?
BECAUSE ALL LIFE AS WE KNOW IT DEPENDS ON GRANDPARENTS! Okay, not exactly. But somehow it does feel that we are participating in a circle-of-life story worthy of a lion king. We are born; we are parented; some of us grow up to have and parent our own children, and then sometimes, if we are lucky again, we become grandparents. And so life goes on…and on…and on.
As a writer of parenting programs, I’ve thought a good deal about the role of grandparents. In fact, for years our leaders have asked me to write a version of Active Parenting about grandparenting (especially for those grandparents who answer the call and step up to the role of “grandparent as parent.” These heroes face all the usual challenges of parenting, plus some special issues for which they deserve medals).
But what about us “typical” grandparents who have done the heavy lifting in our previous incarnation as parents, and get to enjoy the grandkids, pass them lovingly back to our children, and call it a day? The proper role for most grandparents is to sit quietly in the background, looking on with joy and awe at the miracle of our own children growing up to be parents themselves, and helping out as much as we are able and our children want us to. It is not to micromanage the process, offer critical commentary, look for a chance to “do over” our own parenting mistakes, spoil, overindulge, or otherwise undermine our children’s own efforts to prepare our grandkids as they see fit.
It is particularly important to practice such restraint for those of us who have been given the opportunity to “write the book” on parenting or otherwise qualify as a “parenting expert,” and what grandparent worth his or her low-salt diet doesn’t qualify as an expert after so many years of learning the hard way that the best way to raise a successful child is to accept them for who they are, supporting them in their successes and failures alike?
Having said that, parenting is still a skill, and skills are based on knowledge and practice. So, offering advice when asked, sparingly, and with lots of encouragement, can be a good thing, too. It also won’t hurt if you want to give them a copy of the appropriate Active Parenting Guide or even an online parenting course as a gift. Just make sure you preface it with a statement about how, like other jobs that are both challenging and important, parents benefit from a little education, and all parents can learn a thing or two.
Then, relax and brush up on your chocolate chip cookie recipe, because everyone needs a special “cookie person” in their life who gives them a treat just to see them smile.