Have you ever noticed that your father and, especially your mother, can get your children to cooperate far better than you can? I know it sometimes involves some form of bribery – candy, money, cuddles, etc. – but it still seems to work much better than your efforts.
Then, again, you may have seen the bumper sticker that says, “Grandchildren are great – We should have had them first.”
Both of these comments highlight the same point, but from different perspectives: Dealing with children seems to get easier as you grow older.
A Dose of Reality
It’s not true, of course. Dealing with children does not get easier as you get older. And there are those who would say that children, today, are far more disrespectful than they were, “in my day.”
The difference, of course, is in the attitude of the adult.
It seems almost superfluous to say that as we get older we have more experience in life and we learn how to deal with things better. Yet it does need to be said, because it’s something that we all forget, from time to time. We go through life lamenting our struggles; yet we rarely seek advice from those who have gone before.
The fact is that grandparents don’t have all the answers. But they do have life experience. And that experience is valuable.
Changes in Circumstances
As we get older, we also learn to deal better with changes in our circumstances. Older people frequently lament not being able to think as quickly as they used to. That, however, is a good thing. Many younger people think too quickly. I know. I used to be one of them. I would fly into the fray, all headstrong and overconfident that I had all the answers, simply to fall flat on my face in embarrassment.
An amusing soliloquy comes to mind: When I was six, my father knew everything; when I was sixteen, it’s amazing how much he had forgotten; by the time I was twenty six, it’s amazing how much he had remembered, again.
That concept runs right through our lives. I look at my mother, now, and there are times when I will discuss my problems with her and benefit from her advice. There are also times when I wonder what happened to her intelligence! There are times when I will discuss things with my children to get their younger perspective. And there are times when I worry that they will never survive. And I have no doubt that my own children look at me in the same way. There are times when they ask my advice and act on it; so they obviously feel I know what I am talking about. And there are times when it seems that I am speaking a totally different language, because they look at me as if to say, “Are you real?”
A Changed Perspective
Recent experiences have set me thinking about this. Also, research about dealing with these experiences has made me aware of a big gap in the advice available for grandparents who love both their children and grandchildren, but who may be faced with the dilemma of protecting the family that they love so much. There is plenty of advice for parents on how to raise their children. And there is plenty of advice on being grandparents to children who go home at night.
But a number of my friends have recently been faced with having to make a choice that no one wants to make: They are having to choose between their children and their grandchildren.
Let me say that again. They are having to choose between their children and their grandchildren. And that choice is not an easy one.
These grandparents are finding that, at an age when they were looking forward to having a life of their own, going for walks, holidays, simple meals out, they now have to care for a new generation of children, and their life is no longer their own. Their children have left home and the bedrooms have been tastefully redecorated. Some rooms have been set aside as offices; others as bedrooms for the grandchildren to spend the weekend.
But the pleasure of grandchildren was supposed to be that you borrowed them, had fun, then gave them back. For these grandparents, giving the children back is no longer an option.
I come from a part of the world where it was always traditional for at least the first child to live with his or her grandparents for a few years so that the mother could go back to work. That was the situation when I was born. But that has changed. Parents now take their responsibilities more seriously and grandparents find themselves roped in as unpaid babysitters while the mother goes back to work.
But that is not my friends’ experience. They are in the position of becoming parents to their grandchildren, not for a few days, not for a few years, but for life.
Now, as I said, there is a lot of advice out there for parents, a lot of advice for grandparents, and a lot of advice for foster parents. But there is very little advice for grandparent parents. They are left almost to their own devices.
A New Series
So I have decided to start writing a new series of articles based on the difficulties experienced by grandparents faced with the dilemma of becoming parents, again. This series will be tagged and categorized under “Grandpa’s Way,” and it will only be available on my self-hosted blog, Harcourt 51. I will be posting links on my WordPress site, but not full articles.
What Will This Series Contain?
I don’t know! But seriously, I will be looking at the role of grandparents in the children’s development. How can grandparents help their children to be better parents? When should you speak up? When should you keep quiet? How can you deal with potential conflicts of interest?
I will also be looking at the situation surrounding grandparents taking over the role of being parents to their grandchildren. Why might this be necessary? What do you need to take into consideration before making such a decision? What help is available? How do you deal with Social Workers if that becomes necessary?
Other questions might include things like, What can you do if you think your grandchildren are at risk? And what if that risk comes from your children? How can you help your children to improve as parents, reduce or remove the risk, and still keep the peace in the family?
I also want to share parenting tips for both parents and grandparents. Maybe some of them will work for you.
I want to look at various situations that could lead to grandparents becoming parents. How do you help your grandchildren to deal with losing both their parents, which is why they are now staying with you, and their grandparents, because you have now become their parents?
Finally, I want to share some tips on mindfulness as it applies to family situations. How can a greater awareness of your own feelings help you to better understand your children and grandchildren? How can it help you to be calm in the face of serious difficulties? How can it help your family to deal with trauma, which can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes?
So, what will this new series contain? Anything and everything that could be of interest to grandparents, their children, their grandchildren, and the grandparents’ parents. After all, there are more grandparents than ever before looking after people both older and younger than they are.
One final point of note is that you do not have to be in this situation to benefit from this series. You may be someone who has friends or family members facing these issues. What advice do you give them? How can you help them? The series will look at this situation, too.
You may be a professional who deals with these situations every day. I hope that you will benefit from reading about these issues from the perspective of the layman. If you feel that some of the comments are out of order, please contact me to discuss it, either through the comments or my Contact page.
And, who knows? Maybe I’ll even combine it all into a book.
Please note that I do not claim to be an expert. The thoughts expressed in this series may not reflect the current thinking in professional circles. These are my personal opinions based on my personal experience and that of my friends, who shall remain nameless. Any names used in these articles will be fictitious, and the experiences quoted, although based on real life, will be fictitious constructions combining isolated incidents and mindful meditation on the potential consequences.
Also, remember that all situations are different. The thoughts contained herein are not meant to be definitive answers to any situation. They are provided simply as prompts, enabling those who care to think about their own dilemmas with a view to finding their own solutions to their own unique problems. Basically, we will be looking at principles, not rules.
This blog, its authors and editors cannot take responsibility for any decisions made by those who read this content. Please conduct your own research and discuss your situation with your own advisors before taking any actions or making any decisions.