Personally, I have never found a grandparent who did not absolutely love being one, with this one assumption. That assumption is that the parents of their grandchildren do a wonderful job raising their kids. There is nothing better than to be assured of your grandchildren being properly cared for while realizing you can just be a grandparent!
My wife Kathy and I have been grandparents for seven years and we now have four absolutely beautiful grandchildren (a right of all grandparents to say)! Our two daughters, who are truly great mothers, happened to marry two wonderful men who are models of what a good dad should be. Coming from me that is quite a compliment because I think and write about Dadhood every day!
Most grandparents have a Master’s Degree in parenting, even if they failed at basic parenting--particularly the grandfathers. Their maturity, life lessons, softer hearts, and less burdensome lifestyle make it possible for some men to be the nurturers they couldn’t or wouldn’t be in their younger years.
"There are fathers who do not love their children; there is no grandfather who does not adore his grandson." – Victor Hugo
All this considered, Kathy and I believe ourselves to be in grandparent heaven! We do, however, watch two or three of our grandkids two days a week. It is something we do voluntarily because childcare is so expensive and since we will be spending most of our retirement income on our ‘selfish’ little selves, we help out this way so our daughters’ families can save for their future and their kids’ future. It also allows us to build a close relationship with them all. However, watching the kids is no small task, because holy macaroni! -- are we ever tired afterwards!
This brings me to my point, grandparents should be the icing and not the cake!
Close to three million children in the United States are being raised primarily by their grandparents – an increase from 2.5 million in 2005. The reasons vary from the death or incapacitation of the parents to the inability of the parents to take proper care of their children because of drug or alcohol abuse, financial issues, incarceration, or a myriad of other reasons. When this happens, grandparents' lives are severely disrupted.
Grandparents can be and usually are a blessing for any family, but those grandparents who have a major role in raising grandchildren are quiet heroes that are seldom recognized. Beyond what they are doing for the safety and protection of their grandkids, here are six reasons why these older citizens are heroes.
- Lost years – Most grandparents are retired or close to retirement. They have raised their children and look to enjoy time together, travel, and enjoy life with their lesser responsibilities. Having to raise grandchildren can delay this joy or deny it almost completely.
- Lost income – Money saved for a new villa, that special trip overseas, new car, carefree lifestyle, or potential medical expenses are now diverted to basic needs for their grandchildren. Often these grandparents are required to remain or go back into the workforce to provide financial support and/or medical insurance for the children in their custody.
- Exhaustion – After two full days with three grandchildren under three years of age, Kathy and I are totally exhausted. The kids are not overly active or troublesome, we just aren’t built for that kind of activity any longer. If we were to be required to watch them full time, we would have to change something to prevent collapse, even if just an attitude. Raising kids is meant to be performed by younger adults.
- Changing roles – I know I am more liberal with my grandchildren than I would have to be if I were their primary caretaker. Kids need rules and consistency, but grandparents are like a free zone for getting special treats or treatment, of course within reason. Kids understand the difference between the real world and their grandparents’ world. Don’t they both deserve that? Grandparents who raise their grandchildren can’t afford this luxury, nor can the kids be allowed it.
- Lost time with other grandchildren – Often grandparents raising the children of an offspring will have grandchildren from other offspring who will not get the attention they would have received otherwise. They become more like aunts and uncles who can’t treat a niece or nephew better, in certain circumstances, than their own children.
- Extra burdens – Less free time, more worries, less time alone together or with friends, and countless intangibles burden grandparents raising their grandchildren.
There are seventy million grandparents in the US, 72% think being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life. I don’t know it as a fact, but I imagine that number would be even higher if not for the three million children being raised by their grandparents. It’s not that these kids aren’t loved by their grandparents, for surely they are, but it is not an experience that brings the kind of joy both the grandparents and their grandchildren deserve. These grandparents do what they have to do and while some may enjoy the experience, all wish their grandkids could experience a normal life with their own parents and a normal relationship with their grandparents.
Hallmark Grandparents Day is September 13th, but any day you get a piece of artwork for your refrigerator is the real Grandparents Day.
Click here for some surprising facts about grandparents from the American Grandparents Association.