Becoming: A Grandparent

The role of grandparent is a fascinating one. While grandparents have always been an important part of family life, this generation of grandparents is designing a whole new definition of the role.

Mack’s dad passed away when our boys were very young and his mom had a major debilitating stroke even before our youngest was born. So, our boys missed out completely on an influence from that side of the family. My parents lived in a different town and both still worked throughout our boys’ childhoods, so they had much less interaction than they would have liked, I’m sure. Throughout the years, my dad would travel to watch their ball games, attend graduations, etc., but he always wished he could have been more involved. My mother, while she adored the boys, had a demanding job and was a primary care taker for her own aging mother, so she wasn’t able to be as involved, either.

So, desire to be involved with our grandchildren is not the only factor that plays into that decision. Jobs, location, and economics   all play a part in the degree to which we are involved in the lives of our grandchildren.

I will be real honest with you. I never wanted to be a grandmother. (Oh…I know…these are not words that should ever be uttered!). As an early childhood specialist and professor, students told me for years, “I’ll bet you can’t wait to be a grandmother. You will be so good at it!). I guess they based that on the troves of stories, songs, finger plays and activities that I always had at the ready. And, of course, I do love little kids. I just always thought that grandmothers were old and boring. Also, I couldn’t stand the thought of loving a little guy so much and not really being in charge of making decisions about that child’s welfare. It scared me.

Well, a few years ago, we got the news that our youngest son and his wife (who weren’t all that young at close to 30) were going to be supplying our very first grand baby. Well, I was not all that thrilled. What would I do if this much-loved baby was bullied, or mistreated, or ignored by his classmates? How could I survive if his parents didn’t discipline him in the way that I thought was best, or if they fed him lots of junky stuff? I know enough to know that none of this is in my realm of influence. As the mother of the boy in the couple, I knew that it was even more important that I keep my mouth shut, no matter what I thought.

Well, the good news is that my son and his wife are doing a great job. I am able to just enjoy the babies and not worry too much about any of that other stuff. So, what I will share with you all on this blog does not necessarily come only from my personal interaction as a grandmother, but as a life-long educator and observer of young children and their families. I won’t pretend that my life is perfect or that my son and his wife are doing everything perfectly (though I will say that my grandchildren are, indeed, perfect!), but I hope to explore the fun things, the concerns that we all share, and some strategies for dealing with all of it.

Our first baby is now 6 years old and has been joined by 4 year old twin brothers and a 2 year old brother. Four boys in 3 years…might be a record! It is a wild and crazy ride, but fascinating to watch and fascinating to have a little part of.

During that first year and a half of grandparenthood, Mack and I kind of rocked along in our regular life. About once a month or once every six weeks, we would take the 6 hour trip to Fort Worth, where the kids lived, and we babysat while the parents went out for a movie or dinner. We thought that we were involved grandparents.

But, something happened when we found out that the twins were to be born. We realized that “the kids” would need some help (though they never asked for it). We also realized that we were missing a whole lot of good times with our babies.

We had a bit of a conundrum, though. We LOVED where we were living and the life that we had created in our little beach town. We had moved to the beach about 10 years earlier, after all of our kids were up and out. Mack worked from home, we traveled, participated in community theater and were very involved in our church and had lots of friends. Every week, we had clubs, and parties, and activities that we had come to depend on.

But, that March, Mack and I both woke up one morning, and said to each other, “Let’s move to Fort Worth.” If either of us had not been on board, it wouldn’t have happened, but the good Lord led us to that same decision at the very same time. Kind of amazing.

We literally made the move in two weeks. (We kept the beach house, so there wasn’t that to deal with). We took our three closest beach-y friends out to dinner the week before we left, telling them of our decision. They were blind-sided and I’m not sure they believed that we had just made the decision to leave, and I’ll admit that I might not have believed it either. But, again, the good Lord had it all planned out way ahead of time. In an Only-God-Could-Do-It turn of events, one of the head guys that Mack worked with decades before (a great, Godly man who has served as an inspiration and mentor to us both for years) found out about our plan to move back to Fort Worth and made an offer that we couldn’t refuse. They asked Mack to come in and mentor young engineers 2-3 days a week (or as often as he could). Insurance, benefits, all the good stuff that could keep his entrepreneurial enterprise going in addition to the new gig.

So, we found a great loft in an historic building a couple of blocks from Mack’s new gig and a ten minute drive from our babies. We planned to buy a house – as soon as we found out where the kids would land. Their tiny (but really, really cute) starter home was not going to cut it for long with their growing family.

In another amazing turn of events, they did find the perfect home and the perfect community to raise their growing family. It just happened to be back in Midlothian, where I had been the primary school principal all those years ago; where we had raised our own boys. We still have friends in Midlothian. So, we joined the same church, went back to the same Jazzercise class, and have regular meet-ups with old friends.

So, that’s how this journey began. We bought a house five doors down from the babies (granted, a little closer than we planned, but it turns out that the good Lord had a hand in that as well). We never show up unannounced (Rule#1 – we’ll talk about rules in a later post), but we love it when they turn up, announced or not, at our house).

These are good days. Today is the first day of summer break. We are looking forward to a lot of good times playing in the back yard, swimming in the community pool down the street, and generally just being available to these little guys who mean the world to us both.

Turns out, I like being a grandmother. In fact, Esther 4:14 says it best:

“Perhaps this is the moment for which you were created.”

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