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Entries in Grandchild (3)


Do You Raise Grandchildren or Guide Them?

The text had a sense of urgency.

“Gary, I need a phone call to talk about parenting skills. Or grandparenting skills. It’s going to be a long hot summer.  Please let me know when you are available. THANKS!”

 The note came from a dear (former work) friend…someone who, generally speaking, had spent a great deal of time talking me off career ledges.  We quickly arranged a time via text and we spoke in the evening.

 “I really don’t know what to do.  I am having an issue with my grandchild who is visiting for the summer.”

 As someone who is generally calming influence, it was surprising she felt uncomfortable.  My mind started to race with what calamity she could be facing… drugs, pregnancy, undesirables, suicide, police….and my responses were already forming for each of these issues.  “How old is your grandchild?”

She kept talking without skipping a beat.  “She’s 12.  It is really getting bad.”

My friend was just talking out loud; she is not one embracing a dramatic tendency.  The build-up was concerning.  Teenagers are always tough.  I wasn’t sure where the conversation was going, and was concerned the salient point was so heinous my friend might not share it.  “Are you feeling threatened?”

“Oh goodness no.  She wants to be alone.”

Pause.  “She wants to be alone.  Is she sullen?  Self-destructive? Playing with matches?  Anything you would find concerning?”

“No, she just wants to be left alone.”

“Then leave her alone.”

Another pause.  “You mean I don’t need to raise her?”

At this point, we had a long winding discussion where my friend regained perspective.  Her grandchild was visiting for a couple months.  This was not a case of the grandmother having to raise the child on behalf of the parents.  Mom and Dad are still in the picture.

It’s the parents’ job to raise a child, and grandparents can provide child raising suggestions when asked (I find it’s better to offer suggestions when asked rather than a continual spewing of child raising advice.)

“Your grandchild should know you love her, care and support her….and if she needs a little alone time (provided you have no reasons for concern) then leave her alone.  You don’t need to be a super parent hovering every moment of every day…your granddaughter just wants some private time.  Of course, keep an eye on things in case there’s something at play we’re not aware of so you can intervene.”

In a couple days a follow up call was met with my old friend and her customary confidence.  “I let her be alone for about an hour and she came around for dinner.  We watched some TV together.  Since then, she’s been great.”

My friend also reinforced my belief a community can help with differing perspectives on raising a child…parents are not alone.   By reaching out and talking, a conversation was had on various approaches…making it better for both my friend and her grandchild.


Where Does This Pride Come From?

When my children were born (or hatched as I still tell my son) I was literally at the birth. 

Sitting with my wife, I was able to watch when the contractions were coming and let her know when one was coming. 

I thought I was helping the situation, with a watchful eye and early warning.  You should also know when I am in a stressful situation, I tend to make a joke to break the tension.  My wife was not appreciative of my contraction warning or light jokes.  She announced, “No jokes” at the top of her lungs, adding an F word between “no” and “jokes.”  And the F word was NOT funny.

At delivery time, I was the right stirrup.  Up close, personal, scared, elated….after 9 months and hours of labor the delivery was relatively quick.  I experienced it all.

Now it is time to become a grandparent.  No longer in the delivery room, the grandparents are all gathered in the waiting room along with my daughter (on deck in case dad-to-be passes out.)

We expected Dad to crash through the double waiting room doors and announce the birth, like in the movies.  Mom was having a C-section, and this is abdominal surgery.  So wait we did.

My kids and I have a group text distribution list we use for updates, pictures, and sharing.  Dad’s first communication from the front line was cryptic.

“I’ve seen her.”

The grandparents erupt in joy and repeat over and over.  I’m confused.  Who has he seen?  Last I heard, he was going in to meet his wife.  Has he seen his wife or…or have we been blessed with our granddaughter?  I reply, “Who have you seen?”

Minutes go by.  This is a fast process.  What’s going on?  What is taking so long?  Is there an issue.

The next communication is a picture…a picture of the newborn.

Tears are the order of the day.  The grandparents hug and cry.  We stare at the picture of the little baby girl.

Questions swirl.  Mom’s parents are asking if Mom is OK.  Others want dimensions. 

I’m presuming Mom is ok or no pictures would be coming, and still she’s their daughter and they are understandably concerned.  Items like size are interesting, and represent a point of departure where all subsequent measures will compare. Personally, I’d like to know her name.

My daughter DOES know the name, and won’t tell.  I try to bribe her with a Starbucks, and she isn’t caving in even for Starbucks.  “Will I like the name?”  My daughter looks up, smiles and nods her head.

Suddenly sonny boy comes out, walking like he had just completed the Boston Marathon.  He’s exhausted, in awe, and a little overwhelmed.

“Everything is fine.  We can bring in grandparents two at a time, and then you’ll learn name from us.”

Hugs again, tears again….and then the processional to greet the little one starts.

I feel pride.  Heck, I took a day off from work for this and rarely, every take a day off.  I am bursting with pride.  Run around the halls kind of pride.

With new mom and dad’s approval, I start posting photos to Facebook at a frightening pace…certainly challenging Facebook’s ability to process.  Yes, she’s a decedent and all that, and privately I worry my posts may overwhelm/bore my “friends.”  Heck, some of my friends are childless.  To the contrary, the “likes” start rolling in.  People “like” these pictures of my granddaughter.  Klout, a tool for measuring social influence, suggests my greatest recent moments (actually my top six movements) are granddaughter pictures.

While I’ve suggest to my son he should publish a daily picture of the grandbaby, my occasional updates on Facebook are still met with an onslaught of happiness, and comments indicating people are really paying attention (comments on eyelashes, or a headband, or her dad’s hand.)  If a few days go by, inevitably a friend will ask for an updated picture.

I find myself driving thirty minutes for the opportunity to see and hold her, or to “check in” since I was “in the neighborhood.”  My daughter Auntie is often found holding the little one.  Her parents are still very watchful, still in awe, and are predictably exhausted.  They are lucky, too.  They get to be up close and personal with her all the time, and not just getting vague updates via text.

My grandchild brings me joy and happiness.  I can’t wait for her parents to leave her with me so the serious spoiling can begin.




It wasn’t odd for my 26 year old daughter to invite me over to her house for a barbeque….but on a Friday night?  Unheard of!

The usual texting around who was coming (my son, his wife, daughter and her boyfriend) and who was bringing what was enjoyable.  Of course, it strayed into who has the prettiest cat, etc.  All fun.

The night arrived and we all enjoyed a delicious barbeque chicken meal, along with some delicious corn.  All in all, a normal get together.

Suddenly my 29 year old son hops up and runs to the kitchen cabinet, grabbing a package wrapped in Christmas paper and handed it to me.  Hmm.  Now THIS is odd.  It’s July!  I was being told I had a gift to open.

Opening the package, I was greeted by a baby’s onesie.

My mind was a whirl.  There were two females in the room, and I quickly looked in each of their faces.  It was obvious.  My son and his wife were preganant.

“Really?” was my initial spoken word.  OK, in retrospect perhaps I could have summoned up a better reaction.  At the time, it was what I was thinking.  Was this really happening?

Hugs took place, with more appropriate congratulations.  My daughter asked if I felt older….and the truth is while I didn’t feel older, I had an odd mix of feelings.  It was an odd mixture of pride, fright, happiness, etc.

Wasn’t this the same little guy I was considering the right words for his impending wedding?

Wasn’t this the same little guy who slept overnight outside the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con so he could get seats for a 2:30 in the afternoon Game of Thrones panel?

Wasn’t this the same little guy I used to carry around like a football?

My little guy was quickly transforming into a man right before my eyes.

Once the entire calamity settled, my daughter asked me what advice I would pass on to my son and his wife.

Hmm.  (Thank you, Erin, for asking simple, light questions to keep the party going.)

Kids are such a HUGE responsibility.  They are a lifelong commitment.  And they do NOT come with an instruction manual!

My response was simple one.  Breathe.  I think I would have been a better dad had I breathed more when presented with the challenges of children.  Whether it was something the child was doing, or not doing, taking a split second to reflect would have made some of my responses more appropriate.

One of the things about having kids is it means hope.  Hope for all of us.  Hope for the future. 

In the last 24 hours, I’ve had more time to reflect, and have started a list of what to tell the kids.  It’s incomplete, and I’d like you to add to it.  After all, it takes a community.  Due date is in February, so we have time.

So here is the beginning of my brainstormed list:

  • Always keep a “drool cloth” close by.  Kids spit up all the time.  It will make you happy.
  • Don’t waste money on the finest everyday kid’s clothes.  They are not in them that long.  Wal-Mart has fine kids clothes.  Save your money.
  • Attend every open house, and play.  Try to be at most (if not all) athletic events.  Your kids will feel your support.
  • Dirt is dirty, and generally not deadly.  A little dirt is fun.  Let the child have fun.
  • What kids will remember is family times together.  When asked what my kids liked most as a child…one said “the sandbar” and the other said boating on Lake Winnisquam.  They were referencing the same thing.  In their top items wasn’t the over the top pricey trips (Disney, Atlantis.)  Make time for family.
  • If your child is doing the best they can in school, rejoice.  Not everyone gets an A.  Again, an A for effort is what’s important.  If they start “mailing it in,” intervene.
  • Post high school education costs money.  I am a believer in education. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a rocket scientist, or a mechanic, schooling is important. Start saving today.
  • Your kids will get hurt.  Physically, emotionally…. It is inevitable.  Listen to them.  Support them.  Guide them.  Hug them.  You can’t completely insulate them from life…so you need to help prepare them.
  • I woke my kids up every morning with an off pitch song, and they went to sleep to a simple prayer.  Goofy? Perhaps.  And they still remember it.
  • The adage, “Children should be seen and not heard,” is bullshit.  Kids should be mannered.
  • Don’t spank.  
  • Gift giving times do not have to break the bank.
  • Dinner can be a fun time.  Don’t miss every dinner.
  • Enjoy your children.  Enjoy their growth and development.  Laugh.
  • The little child you love and nurture will inevitably turn evil in their teens.  You do NOT become stupid over night.
  • If your child can’t behave in a store or restaurant, take the child out of the store or restaurant quietly and efficiently.  Do not let yourself be heard over the wailing child!
  • Organized after school activities should be encouraged.
  • If you have more than one child, recognize they are different little people.
  • You will be tired.  Only for 20 years.  Get used to it.  
  • Read to your children.  Don’t let the one eyed babysitter (TV) raise your child.  When they are tiny, they won’t notice when you skip a page.  It’s the time with them that’s important.
  • School projects are an opportunity for you to spend time with your child.  Sometimes they feel solely like parent projects.  Work together on them.
  • You can have some of your own traditions.  Respect those already in the family.
  • Have Zero tolerance of drugs and driving.  Zero.  Teach this early.
  • Manners are important, and need to be taught and reinforced.  They carry a child for a lifetime.  Enjoy elbow night.


This is just a beginning list.  A starter list so to speak.  What advice would you give?