The Art of Being A Grandparent

The Art of Being a Grandparent

David J. Bethuram

In July of this year I became a grandfather for the third time. Reflecting on this wonderful and special event, I have come to the realization that I have lead three lives: first as a child, second as an adult with a career and parenting my children, and third as a grandparent. And God willing, I will have a fourth life retired from my career and enjoying my life as a volunteer and keeping tabs on my children and grandchildren. In each one of the lives I’ve lived thus far, I continually discover and learn new things. I find sides of me that I did not know existed. My life now – with a career and being a grandparent has been a time for discovering new talents and creative possibilities in my inner worlds. It is a time for applying the wisdom of the ages to me. It is a time for discovering the full meaning of life and for preparing for the future, whatever that may be.

I have found out in speaking with other grandparents that being a grandparent means different things. But the one thing that seems we all have in common is although grandparenting is not the dominant aspect of most of our lives, it is an aspect that is more important than most of us realize.

I am fortunate to live very close distance to my grandchildren and have the privilege of seeing two of them almost every day and the third once every couple months. I have been blessed with children who have actively asked me to be engaged in my grandchildren’s lives and it is one of the most important parts of my life. I get to see the good, bad, and the beautiful. I’ve experienced them sitting on my lap in my leather chair watching Mickey Mouse Playhouse, watching them run and giggle - and yes “screaming” – while they were chasing their 80 pound yellow lab around the house, and I have the delight to have them fall asleep on my shoulders and placing them into the comfort of their beds. I’ve also seen them through tantrums, push one another, and say they “hate me” because I didn’t let them have another ice cream (after they really didn’t eat their dinner). All of these times whether they are enjoyable or challenging are beautiful.
I have come to realize that becoming a grandparent I am important simply for being “oldest living representative of our family.” This little fact was told to me by my granddaughter Lilah when she was about 6 years old. She said it with such a positive spirit; I couldn’t be upset or deny her enthusiasm for my “achievement.” I just took it that she wanted me to take on the role of family historian and mentor – and maybe she was telling me I was a role model. Or maybe she was just stating the fact that from her vantage point she could see a tangible family line to her ancestry. As one of her grandfathers, I’m one of the links to the past on her father’s side of the family. I can share stories about her father when he was young, not always to her father’s liking!

To my delight, my grandchildren really think I’m smart and wise about the important things in life. I’ve have found myself answering such questions like:

  • Question: Grandpa – why is the color yellow – yellow?
  • Answer: Because if yellow wasn’t yellow then we’d get it confused with orange.

  • Question: Why did God put wrinkles on your face and not mine?
  • Answer: Because God makes us all different.

  • Question: Mommy told me not to ask you about your nose hairs any more. Is that ok?
  • Answer: Your mother is a wise woman.

My three year old grandson Liam has taught me the physical arts. I’m now his personal jungle gym, climbing up on me while he twists and turns and jumps off of me. I consider it part of my fitness program. He has also taught me the excitement of balloons – to bounce them off my head or let them rise to the ceiling where I have to lift him up so he can grab them. He laughs and smiles. I didn’t realize how much there is a real science to both of these activities.

My granddaughter Charlotte, who is not quite two months old, has taught me how wonderful and new and precious life is for all of us. Holding her and getting to feed her and have her fall asleep in my arms is an absolute joy. She really doesn’t have to do anything else. Although she does like my singing of Puff the Magic Dragon. Unfortunately, her older brother is a bit more critical of my singing, blurting out “all done” after about 10 seconds.

As you can see, I have gained a profound meaning in life from the love I have received from my grandchildren. My emotional attachment to them is a powerful gift and gives me thoughts about continuity of my own life in the next generation.
Our grandchildren have as much to offer me as I have to offer them. I enjoy the simple pleasures with them. The love and attention I give them builds their self-esteem. Their interest in my company and in my stories reminds me of the importance of family. We offer each other the sense of belonging not only to our families but to the human family.
The art of grandparenting requires commitment, understanding, practice, and perseverance. Thanks to my grandchildren I now have a greater appreciation for these virtues than ever before.