Grandparenting really began when humans started living longer. A key consequence of three generations (instead of two) being alive together was the passing along of survival experience and knowledge from grandparents that, prior to that point, would have been lost.
Grandparenting, as we know it in our lifetimes, is a relatively recent phenomenon…
There are now 65 million grandparents in the U.S. The majority of us are between ages 45 and 64. We’re still working full time and are still young and active. Ten percent of American households are headed by a grandparent with at least one grandchild living with them.
I interviewed a variety of grandparents, ages 42 to 94.
One grandmother had just returned from visiting her grandson in prison. One grandfather had just seen his granddaughter at Harvard. Several had grandkids living far away. Some lived close to their grandkids. Several had wonderful relationships with the grandkids’ parents. Some did not. Many of the grandparents I interviewed loved it. Several were ambivalent at best about it. Grandparents today are definitely a diverse bunch of people.
Here is what the grandparents said they would like from their Grandkids:
• Understand that in many ways you and I are on similar paths. Unlike your parents who are working very hard to keep everything together each day, I’m more like you because I have the opportunity and obligation to craft who I’m going to be in the future and what I’m going to want my life to be like. We’re both moving forward without knowing the next destination for sure.
• Remember I’m your grandparent, not your parent (unless I am in a custodial position).
• Treat me courteously, reliably and kindly. When I send you something or reach out to you, respond to me. Don’t just take.
• Think of me as an astute, competent adult, not an “old person.”
• Figure out over time the kind of person you want to be, what you want to do with your life, and have the courage to do it. Think. Talk to me about it as life goes along.
• Understand I will, situationally, say “Yes” or “No” to you and stick to it. This is part of my adulthood and being a good grandparent.
• I want and will work at having a great relationship with y our parents, one with agreed upon rules for communication and secrets. Don’t play us off against each other. Grandparenting is really a triangle: me, you, and your folks. Be careful to keep our confidences.
• Deal with the “Old Normal” in the world. Some of it is here to stay in my generation and is of value. Through me learn and experience enough about the old normal to understand why I may have certain reactions that may seem old fashioned but are also really smart. Talk to me about them. I’m interested in our developing a deep appreciation of each other.
• Let me teach you sometimes. The interviews with the grandchildren and the grandparents inspired me. I’m looking forward to doing more soon.
What do you want from your grandkids? Have you shared that with them? How did they respond?