I never really thought much on becoming a grandparent, mostly I think because I never expected it to happen until later in my life. The times I did, I saw myself towards the end of my working life, being able to kick back in (semi-)retirement and enjoy quality time with my child and grandchild at family gatherings and special events. But it was always in the distance; something to imagine without actually considering.
And then two months ago, with the arrival of my first granddaughter, it was thrust upon me, ready or not.
Let me say the last two months have brought a new joy into my life. Having a grandchild is almost like having your child over again, especially when you are as involved in their life as I am. I am blessed to see her every day; to watch her change and grow and interact with the world in constant new ways. Even the not-so-pleasant tasks such as changing dirty diapers are a blessing in their own way: a confirmation that everything is working the way it’s supposed to, and a pull to memories of doing the same for my daughter.
Over that time I’ve come to reflect on what it means to be a grandparent. It wasn’t a concious examination – I did not set out to analyse or define it. Rather, it just occurred to me one day. I couldn’t even say that it came about while thinking of something other specific thing. It just dawned on me, to coin a phrase.
Becoming a grandparent is a second chance.
I think any parent that’s honest with themselves will admit that when they look back at their time raising their children, there are some things they wish they could get a do-over on. That’s not to say you’ve been a bad parent, or even that you’ve done things that were wrong. It does say that in being able to look back you can probably find instances where a decision you made or a course of action you took would not be the same as what you would do having the benefit of hindsight. Speaking for myself, I know there’s a number of things I did in raising my daughter that – knowing what I know now – I would gladly go back and do differently. That is never going to be an option, and the consequences of our past live with us forever.
However, a grandchild gives us the chance to benefit from those experiences, and make better choices. This is not to say that everything you did was wrong and needs to change; rather, it’s about being able to approach the growth and development of a child with the benefit of knowing what things did work, and what things might’ve been done better, or at least differently. Though we are not necessarily in the role of ‘parent’, we get another shot at it by attempting to impart the lessons we’ve learned from being a parent to our child-now-parent.
We see examples of this all the time without necessarily realising what it actually is. As a parent, think of the times your parents may have let your child do something that you would not have allowed them to do. Is it really that they’re just trying to win the affection of their grandchild – to be the hero in their eyes? Or has time and experience taught them that the strictness they imposed upon you was more about their own sense of overprotection than a real need for a child to conform to certain rules and regulations?
It’s more than that though. Becoming a grandparent gives you a second chance at helping your child understand why you made decisions about their upbringing that you did. It gives them an insight as to how you were with them at all the stages of their development. When my daughter sees me doing things with my granddaughter – rocking her to sleep, reading to her, playing with her – I explain to her that I did the same things with her at that age. It’s an opportunity to take her back in to the past and show her things she can’t possibly remember.
Being a grandparent is still quite new to me, and no doubt my thoughts on being one will change as time goes on. What won’t change is my gratefulness at having this chance again.