I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When a man’s kids start having kids, that man assumes a new status. He takes on the vaunted role of “Grandpa.”
Over the past two months we have visited all our kids, and of course, our grandkids. This includes the newest grandchild – one week old when we first saw him. Our grandchildren now total five.
As each baby comes along everyone in the family has a role to play. As baby grows older each family member, in one way or another, brings their influence to bear.
Mom is the nurturer, the caregiver, the consoler when things go wrong. Mom is there to feed and clothe and clean. Hour by hour as baby grows and develops into a little person Mom bears to witness each small change. Day by day Mom affirms each new experience as baby grows from infant to toddler to young child.
Then there is Dad with his rough and ready ways. Just as Mom is the nurturer, so Dad is the disciplinarian, the enforcer of household rules. Once he and Mom agree on the rules, this becomes the law.
Aunts and uncles play their roles each making their personal and unique contributions to the new arrival.
Here comes Grandma, sweet cuddly Grandma, ready to help Mom and, when asked, to offer advice on the subtleties of child rearing. Mom and Grandma carry on long conversations sharing mysterious secrets of baby care as only sisters in motherhood can.
Finally, there is Grandpa. (This is my cue.) When you brush away the fluff and get down to basics, there is no substitute for Grandpa.
Grandpas have their own special niche. Their role is to bring joy and happiness and wellbeing to their grandchildren, to teach them how to have good clean fun. Their creativity is bounded only by their imagination.
Rest assured there is some advice Grandpa won’t be asked. Grandpa will not be consulted on child rearing. He probably will not be asked about matters of clothing or fashion or home remedies for a sick child. And, if he’s smart, he will not volunteer his opinion where it’s not wanted.
On the other hand, turn around is fair play. Grandpa’s forte is to act quietly and decisively without asking for advice or permission. His advantage is to follow the admonition “Just do it.” After all, it’s easier for Grandpa to obtain forgiveness than to get permission. Then too, he has the wisdom of age and is looking out for the best interests of the child.
It is not Grandpa’s role to initiate discipline. Mom and Dad lay down the law. They set the rules and Dad is usually the enforcer. Grandpa’s role is to bend the rules, skate close to the edge, enjoy carefree fun with the child.
It is not Grandpa’s role to establish and oversee the child’s diet. That’s the job for Mom and Dad. Grandpa’s role is to “treat” the child to all the culinary delights prohibited by rules and regulations. After all, who else will help the child distinguish between pumpkin pie and chocolate cake? Who will point out the difference between a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an ice cream cone? Surely a child must be taught at an early age the variety of candy bars and how they differ from cookies.
It is not Grandpa’s role to observe meticulous rules of hygiene for the child. It is Grandpa’s role to satisfy the child’s curiosity in the great outdoors. Everyone knows the child will get a bath before going to bed. And, if Grandpa is sly, his grandchild won’t be going to bed anytime soon. Meanwhile, there are sticks and stones to examine, dogs to pet, and odd pieces of debris to inspect.
Learning to be Grandpa is like reviewing old tricks with the same old dog. Fortunately for the grandkids, my tricks are easy tricks to learn. They are tailored for the age group on both ends of the spectrum.
Now with another new grandchild, I’m catching the hang of it. I figure the more time I spend with our grandchildren, the more proficient I’ll become. There is something to the old admonition “practice makes perfect.” Come to think of it that maxim cuts two ways.
Only Grandpas can be Grandpas, and a wise Grandpa will find his niche.