Based on my blog, Bringing Up Nana, I was asked to make a presentation for Learning in Retirement of the Waukesha Community Technical College. This organization provides seniors opportunities for continued learning on many extensive and challenging topics. I was honored to be asked – but just about everyone in this group is grandparent and probably quite experienced. Then again, this was my blog’s target audience and a great opportunity to discuss issues and share thoughts with other grandparents. Besides, I can’t be the only person looking for a grandparent job description I reasoned, and agreed to present, So, Now You’re a Grandparent.

The Joy of Becoming a Grandparent

We have all felt the special joy of becoming a grandparent. We joke that grandparents get to spoil the grand kids and then send them home. But we all know there is more to being a grandparent than spoiling the grandchildren. As Leslie Stahl said in her book, Becoming Grandma, “Becoming a grandmother turns the page. Line by line you are rewritten. You are tilted off your old center, spun onto new turf. There’s a faint scent of déjà vu from where you raised your own children, but the place feels freer. Here you rediscover fun and laughing and reach a depth of pure loving you have never felt before.”

Upon on hearing President Clinton announce he was going to be a grandparent, President Bush said, “Be prepared to fall completely in love again. You are just not going to believe it. You’re just not going to believe the joy and fun, and oh yeh, get ready to be the lowest person in the pecking order in your family!”

Both statements describe what we feel but leave me wondering, what is a grandparent’s role in the family?  The grandparent experience is unique to each individual and may not be what we expected. Then again, that’s life. By now we have come to grips with the fact that when it comes to our children, we lost control when they learned to walk. So why should grandparenting be any different?

Due to Unexpected Events

Due to unexpected events some grandparents find themselves providing fulltime care for their grandchildren. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are grandparents who are estranged from their grandchildren. While there are many resources for families dealing with these issues, talking with other people struggling with the same issues can be very cathartic.

The baby boomer generation, which caused a huge demographic shift and continues to be a catalyst for change, is living longer. In fact, people over the age of 60 outnumber children under the age of 15. According to Dr. Linda Fried, Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, “The elderly are the only increasing natural resource in the world.”

Not Our Grandparents, Grandparent

We are not our grandparents, grandparent! We are a resource! Which leads me to ask, what will our legacy be? How will we influence and care for the future? According to the Legacy Project, our lives will span seven generations. And each of us, in turn, becomes a bridge between the three generations before and the three after we were born.  As grandparents, we have the unique opportunity to create meaning in our own lives by informing, inspiring and, reinforcing the foundation from which generations to follow will innovate and thrive.

I am looking forward to sharing all the possibilities with my fellow grandparents!

Jean will be speaking at the Waukesha Community Technical College on April 20, 2021. For more information contact lir@wctc.edu or call 262-695-3473.