The day you become a grandparent, your life changes forever. When you are handed the new family member, you look into their wee face and you melt. For some grandparents, the role is completely different – they are the ones that have to bring up their grandchildren. A parent dies, or through other circumstances, grandparents have to step up and step into the role of being a parent again. A role somewhat different than when they raised their own children.
My husband and I recently had to step up and take over our daughter and son-law’s family of 4 children ranging from 15 years down to 4 years of age, when they went to Europe. Ours was only a temporary situation, but it made us both aware of the trials for those grandparents who do this full time. They have our total admiration as we were totally exhausted after our month. Having to do this for the foreseeable future would be monumental, and the drain on retirement finances would be life-changing.
The most recent census, taken in 2013, tells us 40.3% of mothers with dependent children were employed full-time. Someone is looking after those children while the parents are at work: often that person is a grandparent.
Grandparents Talk is a wonderful book with collections of anecdotes and advice from 38 grandparents. Different cultures and ethnic groups have other attitudes and approaches to child raising and grandparenthood. Long-distance relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are talked about, and the challenges that come with that. Technology is a wonderful thing, with Skype making close relationships possible, and some grandparents (including myself) read stories to their grandchildren during regular catch-ups. Skype has also made it possible for my husband to help various grandchildren with school projects – such a satisfying feeling that you are doing something useful and forging a relationship at the same time. As they grow older, that relationship changes with independence, but the love is still there.
Some stories were heart-breaking, but others were so funny that you couldn’t help but laugh. A lot of families could not survive without the support they get from their children’s grandparents. One of the hardest things you have to learn as a parent of adult children is that when they become parents themselves you have to be careful what advice you do offer them and how. It is a hard ask sometimes.
Working hard at the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is very evident in many of the stories in this book. It’s a relationship that can give a lot of joy, as my husband and I have discovered over the years.