Kramer: A new way to look at grandparenting
“All the flavor and none of the work,” our son Andy said about grandparenting, smiling as he watched Oscar and me play with his children. Spending a vacation week together with his family in the mountains of northern Georgia gave us a unique opportunity to focus our attention on our grandchildren Della, 15, and Max, 11, in a new and special way. We live far from one another and can't do this very often. Being together with them in a remote cabin in the woods – with no distractions other than their electronic gadgets – we had the time and chance to get to know each other better as playmates, competitors and friends. I played pool for the first time and was sorely beaten by a jubilant 11-year-old. Playing Catopoly, a new version of what used to be called Monopoly, gave Della a chance to teach Grandma something new instead of vice versa. And our games of Scrabble were interrupted by cheers of “Yahoo!” every time the kids out-spelled me.The cabin was big enough to have private discussions with each other as we talked late into the night, and I invited them to ask me any questions that they had. I exercised the same interest in them, and the talks drew us together in a new way. But the more I thought about Andy's words, the more they rang true. As parents, he and our daughter-in-law Dana are doing the hard work I remember doing raising children. But they are many years away from the special role of being what I am now – a grandparent. So it surprised me that Andy saw the difference in our roles so clearly. He caused me to think about the flavors of being a grandparent: the joy of watching his children grow and thrive; the special feeling of seeing their excitement at our being together; the satisfaction of hearing about their accomplishments and listening to them play the piano and recorder; the pride in realizing and seeing that they are truly nice people. And the love they share with us openly and often – the hugs, the confidences, the secrets and the dreams. “All the flavor and none of the work” sums up a great part of grandparenting. But there still is a particle of work that can be involved. Sometimes setting limits and offering discipline is required. However, the spices are strong enough that the flavors persist. What Andy may not understand yet because his children are young is that these wise words can refer to the parents of adult children who have done the decades of required work and can now enjoy the flavors their grown children provide as well. His time as a grandparent will come, I hope, and will reward him for his hard work. Grandparenting is delicious. It's the best dessert in the world.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”