“Being a grandparent is indescribable,” they said. “It’s like having your children all over again, only better!” they said. “You love them like your own children, maybe more!” they said.
I heard all the comments from grandparents and thought they were a little obsessed with their grandchildren — until I became a grandmother. The awestruck feeling I had when I laid eyes on our first grandchild, a baby boy and our only grandson, is hard to put into words. I finally got it. I understood what all those grandparents before me meant when they said, “You just can’t explain it.” Since that day in 2011, we’ve been blessed with five granddaughters. Our grandparent quiver is full of arrows; our hearts are full of unexplainable joy. Yes, grandparenthood is grand!
In his infinite wisdom, my father-in-law — father of four and grandfather of nine — believed grandparents are a refuge for their grandchildren. I agree, but I also have observed how everyone in the family benefits when grandparents are involved.
Children benefit greatly by having someone who loves them like their parents and might be more available. Grandparents provide unconditional love, a seasoned perspective on the world and a willingness and ability to spend time with their grandchildren. No longer encumbered with managing careers and busy households, grandparents are free to invest their most valuable asset of time. Using the wisdom they gained from raising their children, grandparents might be grateful for a second chance at parenting in this season of their life and enthusiastically become an entertainment committee for their grandchildren. With the grandchild’s best interest at heart, they are a close friend and confidant with a wealth of knowledge and patience, all rolled up into a secondary parent figure.
Parents benefit from knowing their children are cared for by those who truly love them as their own. Involved grandparents can offer parents a well-deserved respite from their parenting duties, allowing them to focus on themselves and each other. By helping to relieve the stress of parenting, marriages, as well as the children, are strengthened. My parents and my in-laws were very supportive to me as a young mother. I could not have parented our sons as well without their influence, encouragement and hands-on involvement in our lives.
For many families, grandparents are much more than secondary parents or doting elderly relatives for their grandchildren. In 2018, 10% of the estimated 70 million grandparents living in the United States resided with a grandchild, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
These grandparents are fulfilling parental roles and providing stability when parents are unable to raise their children due to hardships from divorce, illness, addiction, incarceration or death. Often at great personal sacrifice, grandparents provide safety nets for their families. And 38% of all grandparents provide babysitting or child care for their grandchildren (www.retireguide.com). It takes a family!
Time spent with my paternal grandparents on their Acworth farm remains among my fondest childhood memories. Grandmother was a lighthearted woman who lived a simple life in her four-room farmhouse. When her grandchildren were with her, she made us feel extra special. She played cards with us at night and did creative things with us outside, like making mud pies and fashioning clothes with leaves and twigs under the shade tree. She sewed quilts for her four granddaughters’ high school graduations, and those are valued heirlooms. On my wedding day 40 years ago, she ironed my clothes in my bedroom, and her presence was a calming force on a very anxiety-ridden day. I visited her frequently on The Farm, the one place in my life that never changed. She welcomed me with tea cakes and coffee at my special place at the table and listened attentively as I shared my heart with her. When I moved near The Farm, she spent time in my home, loving on her great-grandsons.
My grandfather took us to the swimmin’ hole, popped corn over the fire on a wintry night and fetched watermelon from the field on a hot summer day. A man of few words, he walked me around the forest, helping me gather and identify leaves for my school project. I cherish the white oak splint baskets he crafted for me. For my paternal grandparents, love was an action word.
All four of our sons’ grandparents were very involved in their lives and attended most of their sporting, school and church events, cheering them on and showing interest in their activities. One grandfather taught them about science, computers and electronics, while the other grandfather took them hiking and fishing, teaching them about the outdoors. One grandmother played bingo and always served their favorite foods, while the other grandmother instilled the love of music in them and took them on adventures to the park and Dairy Queen. Each expressed his or her love in unique and thoughtful ways. They, along with my own grandparents, set very high standards for me as a grandmother.
My goal as Grandmama to our six precious grandchildren is to love them unconditionally while supporting our sons and daughters-in-law in their parenting efforts. My husband, aka Granddaddy, and I seek to complement the spiritual, disciplinary and educational values they are instilling in our grandchildren. We miss our first four grandchildren, as they aren’t local, but we make every effort to be a part of their world with FaceTime, letters and occasional visits. Our lives are enriched as we spend time weekly with our twin toddler granddaughters, and we are thankful we are available to help when needed, as we benefit greatly from the double joy.
Numerous studies have shown how grandparents experience better mental and physical health and a higher quality of life when they are involved in their grandchildren’s lives. I concur! With healthy boundaries, the grandparent-to-grandchild dynamic enriches the lives of every family member, especially grandparents. Grandchildren are God’s healing balm for the aging soul. Truly every good and perfect gift is from above, and I thank him for the gift of grandparenthood. As we celebrate Grandparents’ Day on Sept. 11, reach out to the grandparents in your family with appreciation and affirmation for the important and impactful role they fulfill. Yes, grandparenthood is grand!
– Vicki Davis, an Atlanta native, visited her parents’ hometown of Acworth growing up. Her family moved to the area in 1987. Family is her focus; writing is her passion.