I wouldn’t normally reach for a grandparenting book — I was reading this book because my friend wrote it — and, to be clear: I don’t have grandchildren, nor am I pining after them. And this is not an announcement. (When I shared the photo of this book a couple weeks back and a bunch of you commented that you thought I was making an announcement, I got a good laugh — that had never even occurred to me!)
Still, I was surprised at how much I appreciated the material. I don’t look forward to aging — and I haven’t even really thought about grandparenting all that much — but thinking about the next stage and how I might chose to handle it, I felt hopeful, almost excited. (Confession: I actually teared up a couple times reading the book, though that may have been because I was feeling the whole cosmic circle-of-life thing a little more than normal since we’d just said goodbye to our daughter.)
Here are a few of my book-inspired thoughts:
*Grandparenting is often viewed as secondary to parenting, less valuable or important. And it is different from parenting, yes, but this book underscored what I’ve gleaned from watching my parents grandparent my kids (and my brothers’ kids): an available, engaged grandparent is a tremendous gift. I’ve seen excellent grandparenting in action; now I was reading about it.
*In our culture where older people are often overlooked and undervalued, the overarching thrust of the book — that elders have tremendous power and relevance — struck me as delightfully counter-cultural. And encouraging! Even as I get older, I can still find meaningful work (grandchildren or no), should I so chose. It’s a comforting thought.
*Grandparents know cool things. They have power and perspective and experience and are, as a result, in a unique position to inspire, teach, and listen. Grandparents: own this.
*Also! As much as possible, grandparents have a responsibility to stay informed and relevant, and, throughout the book, the authors pushed bigger, more complicated issues, accordingly — like global warming, and racial and economic inequalities. These are the things that matter, and “good ancestors” know this.
*While this book wasn’t a how-to — to me, it seemed more a reflection on being an elder in relation to younger generations — I appreciated its few well-placed concrete directives: When the parent is disciplining the child, it’s usually best for the grandparent to step away. When grandparents feel powerless to help a struggling child or grandchild — and they often are — simple things, like lighting a candle, can help to make the do-nothing waiting feel more productive.
*I absolutely loved the book’s push to keeping things simple — away from consumerism and towards the things that really matter: nature, relationships, and community. The more I get this message, the better off I am.
*Here’s an excellent tip: make a conversation more purposeful by announcing, “I’m gonna ask two questions about that,” and then having two questions (or three or five, whatever) ready to go. Done this way, ordinary conversation becomes more engaging, almost playful, like a game.
*And here’s another tip: make lists instead of gifts: 3 things I’d like you to teach me, 7 things I hope for you this coming year, 5 stories I’d like to hear again (Chapter 35, Marilyn). These list gifts can go both ways: kids to G-ps (parents, take note) and vice versa.
However, my biggest takeaway was something that I already knew but still appreciate thinking about: I don’t want to just slide into grandparenting — I want to be intentional about it, thoughtful and proactive. Even if I never end up having grandkids, my future relationships with children will probably be more grandparent-esque than parental so it’s worth it to start thinking about these things now — and this book was an excellent starting point.
Thank you, Shirley and Marilyn. Somehow you managed to be realistic without being discouraging, loving without being sentimental, hopeful without being trite. Finishing it, I felt like I’d just been loved on. Recommend!
This same time, years previous: freezer coffee cake, a simulation, the definition of insanity, burning the burn pile, how to get your bedding/house/kids clean all in one day.