What’s the biggest difference in parenting and grandparenting? It is not just your age. Is there really a huge difference? Do you believe a grandparent’s “job” is to spoil their grandchildren?
Parenting is a skill that is continually being developed and refined. Giving birth or receiving an adopted child does not automatically make any one a great parent. We can learn from the positive and negative examples of others and through our own life experiences. In this sense our children are rather like experimental guinea pigs. We set up boundaries and rules for our kids. We decide how to enforce them. We are influenced by our parents and our peers. We choose what is important or not important for our family. Because our children are continually growing and entering new stages we too keep adjusting.
I am thankful to have been raised in a home with two parents who were loving and reasonable. Yet, as a young parent I was convinced I could do a better job of parenting than they had done. Reality destroyed this arrogance. Just like them, I did the best I could do.
Our fifth child was a bonus who came along when number four was ten years old, and the others were twelve, fourteen and seventeen years old. He was only seven when we became grandparents. Our grandparenting “style” was developed while we were still parenting.
Our older children had in-home, hands-on experience with childcare. I think this exposure was very good for them. They saw up close the reality of caring for a baby. Later as they had children, our youngest child had similar experiences through caring for nieces and nephews. This developed within him a love for children. Now as a single twenty year old, he is hoping for a wife, who desires lots of children. He is thinking maybe ten.
I love my grandchildren dearly, however I am thankful that their parents are able to rear them and that responsibility has not been relegated to me. Many grandparents are the sole caregivers for grandchildren. God bless them. It is true that one of the nice elements of grandparenting is being able to send the children home when we are exhausted. We do not bear the all day, everyday responsibility of the grandchildren or all the decisions necessary for their well-being.
By the time we become grandparents we have lived through all the childhood phases. Hopefully we have gained some experience and wisdom. Being older we should also be more patient. I see my role as a grandparent as a strictly relational one. I am a cheerleader. I support and encourage my children as parents. I don’t make the rules for the grandchildren. I do enforce them, though not as strictly as I did with my children or my children do with their children. When they are in my home I expect them to behave age appropriately. If their parents are present, I expect them to handle all necessary discipline.
I expect to play with and have fun experiences with my grandchildren. I will celebrate their achievements and accomplishments. I will happily share with them any of my skills when and if they wish to learn them. I will take an interest in their interests. I will do my best to tell them stories about when their parents were children and point out the ways they are like their parents. I will share with them my love for God and encourage them in their faith. These are the ways I will “spoil” my grandchildren. But I will not bend on the LC rule. The LC rule is as follows: No one gets a second bowl of Lucky Charms unless they eat all the marshmallows and the cereal in the first bowl.