Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Musings on Grandparenthood

Babies take 9 months, more or less. I have frequently observed that it takes all of those 9 months for the parents-to-be to come to grips with the idea of parenthood. In fact, I have observed this quite often lately with Erica and Ken (my daughter and son-in-law), since they are expecting! SHORTLY!

What I have failed to anticipate in all those years of making that observation: it takes at least that long to get used to the idea of grandparenthood.

I have been thru the parenthood acclimatization - with all the awe, amazement, joy, and with the weight of responsibility for a new life that you actually feel fall on your shoulders like a cloak. When it happens, you sense that you are moving forward, that life is being completed, filled in. It is a fulfilling and satisfying time.

Ah, but grandparenthood - that's different. Now, instead of fully entering the comforts of middle age, you are leaving, to old age. But wait - I'm not old! Notwithstanding that an old curmudgeon stares back at me in the mirror now every morning, I feel like I am middle-aged. I have been so for a long time, and I am contented with it. I don't want to give it up. I am comfortable with my delusion, and I want to keep it, thankyouverymuch.

Just as in parenthood, the grandparent (me? you talking to me?) still has responsibility for a new life, but now it is very different - it is all by proxy. The primary responsibility belongs to and must remain with the parents - you can offer hints and the rare sage advice, but you need to stay once removed so that you do not usurp the role of the parents.

Rearing a baby into an adult is the most important task a human being can undertake. And yet it is one that by far the majority of parents are forced to handle with on-the-job training. Very few people get to see the actual results of their efforts in an adult offspring - what worked well, and what maybe should have been handled differently - in time to apply the learnings to the rearing of another child. In point of fact, I believe that is what grandparents are for. They do have the experience and they do have the long viewpoint. But: gently, gently. Can I be subtle? Can I suggest, instead of pronounce? I hope so. But this will not be easy for me.

Seeing your child become a parent is remarkably fulfilling. But stepping into the proxy role, and out of middle age requires a significant change of world view.

I am not quite there yet.

And I am quickly running out of time.

Maybe I should ask the curmudgeon in the mirror for advice - he's old.


e said...

thanks for posting the ultrasound! looks like a cutie. don't worry bob, grandparenting will come to you naturally. just take it easy and spoil that baby silly.

bob said...

Thanks Eiko - I will, I promise.

The new ultrasounds are really something, aren't they! They are a far, far cry from the technology that we had when Erica was born.

Jared and Beka said...

You'll be a great grandpa! Or whatever they decide to call you!

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