A Grandparent’s Role
With the birth of every baby, the potential is there for new grandparents to be made. In fact, www.grandparents.com estimates there to be a whopping 70 million grandparents currently in the United States, with 1.7 million new grandparents coming on board every year. Over six million homes are multi-generational, meaning children, parents, and grandparents all live together under one roof. With statistics like these, it’s no surprise that grandparents play a major role in the lives of their children and grandchildren. The relationship with a grandparent is one of the first relationships a child builds. If you are a grandparent, hope to become a grandparent some day or just know a grandparent, this article is for you.
Grandparents are those people in your life that have seen it all. They’ve lived many years, comforted many broken hearts and celebrated many joyous occasions. Grandparents had years of practice as parents to prepare for the role of grandparents. Becoming a grandparent may be a dream one has waited on for a long time or it may be a last minute surprise. Either way, most grandparents will tell you the relationship they have with their grandchildren is different, and maybe even more satisfying than the relationships they had with their own children at that age. Even though it sounds harsh to put it that way, lots of parents will tell you their parents have said that to them. They use expressions like, “You’ll understand when you become a grandparent,” or “I just can’t explain it, but it’s a different kind of love.”
Part of the reason that relationship is different is the idea in itself that a perfect little creature they made at one point has now made its own perfect little creature. It’s the pride of a creation from a creation. Another reason they may feel better about the relationship with grandchildren could be because there is less stress involved. When raising children, parents have to worry about everything–buying necessities, buying the “wants,” disciplining the children, doing homework together, making sure there is food on the table, and hoping they are doing enough to raise a productive member of society. Grandparents are off the hook for all those things. Usually grandparents are more financially aware and secure by the time they become grandparents, and they get to focus on more of the fun things, not the everyday stressful things.
Another bonding factor between a child and grandparent is the fact that they are on each side of one of the most important people in both their lives. The child’s parent is the link that connects the two. Think about the strength of a chain created from all the links connected together. Nellie Tate of Lee County, who is a grandmother of three, recalls memories with her grandmother. “My grandmother loved me more than anything! She spent time with me, playing paper dolls and reading books. My brother, Kenneth, and I spent the night with them often; especially in the winter. She worried about stormy weather, and they would check us out of school if it thundered too much.” It just makes you wonder if the foundation of a solid relationship with your grandparents is an indicator that you will have that same fulfilling relationship with your grandchildren.
Establishing a healthy relationship is top priority, but just remember not to cross certain boundaries. Even though grand parenting can be fun, it can also get one into trouble if certain lines are crossed. Grandparents have had plenty of reflection time and may look back on their own lives as parents and worry that they didn’t do enough for their own children. This could cause them to try to make it up by overindulging the grand kids. There also seems to be a trend in grandparents not wanting to discipline the child as harshly or as often as Mom and Dad choose to do so.
Take a trip to a local grocery store or shopping center, and you will surely hear a grandparent telling their son or daughter, “Now don’t get onto that baby,” when that baby is an eight-year old fussing about not getting the toy he wants. Stephanie Stacks of North Mississippi says, “There are definitely things that I defer to the parents for input before purchasing or doing. There are things they know they can do at Grammy’s house that they can’t do anywhere else. Just like there are things they can do at home that they can’t do at Grammy’s house. I get in trouble sometimes, like taking Kayden outside in a rain storm and teaching him how to jump in mud puddles.”
If there is any question about a food, an activity, or something big you want to buy for your grandchild, just run it by the parents first. Everyone will be on the same page with no miscommunication and no hurt feelings. Bridgette Finley, formerly of Saltillo, says, “Grandparents play a crucial role in grand kids’ lives today, and although you can’t take all the fun away from them being a grandparent and spoiling, they also need to be on board with your parenting style.” Communication is key.
One other obstacle parents face when it comes to boundary issues is when a child goes to the grandparents when the parent says no. All parents know the “What did your mom say? /What did your dad say?” trick kids use when the parents disagree on an issue, but that little trick has morphed into the “I’ll just go to Grandma/Grandpa” trick. Children see an ally in the grandparents because Grandma and Grandpa know all the bad things Mom and Dad did as kids so it’s easy for both sides to view the middle person as the enemy. Again, communication will keep this from being a problem.
If you’d like more information, American Grandparents Association, at www.aga.grandparents.com offers a community for grandparents, a weekly newsletter, information about special pricing in different areas andeven has a legal section on grandparents’ rights. Finally, if you still have grandparents, make it a point to go see them, give them a big hug, and tell them how much you appreciate having them as grandparents.
Rhonda Pate lives in Saltillo with husband Jeremy, and daughter Rain, 14. Rhonda never got to know her paternal grandfather, who died when she was only 9 months old, but was told he was crazy about her; she was very close to her paternal grandmother, who passed away in 2009, and she maintains a good relationship with her maternal grandparents, who are still active and in their early 80s.