In November of 2010, we met our daughter Lauren at McAllister’s in Greenville, NC. She was a student at East Carolina University and closing in on a bachelor’s degree. During the meal she shared with Barbara and I that she was pregnant. That was not in the plans. The timing of it was heartbreaking. Everyone at the table knew the difficulties this would present. School would be challenging. Figuring out her relationship would present other challenges. This would present some financial challenges and the greatest challenge of all was learning to parent. For the rest of the family there would be adjustments and changes and we did not know what they might be.
I was concerned about all of the implications. People would ask as the time of birth got closer if I was excited to be a grandparent. The truth is I wasn’t. I was mostly concerned about all of the challenges that were coming and how everyone was going to respond. I had no understanding of the joy found in grandparenting or the positive way it would impact my life. Then on June 15, 2011, Vandin was born and everything changed. Some of the challenges that I expected were there. Actually, some of those challenges were more difficult than even I had imagined. But the joy and positive change that happened has been so much better than I could have ever dreamed. There are several things that I have come to understand about grandparenting.
I am more patient
Most parents are impatient. We are wanting them crawl. Then we want them to walk. Then we want them to talk. We can’t wait for them to play soccer or be able to go to dance classes. We are anxious when they do not figure things out immediately. We want them to be everything and we want it to be sooner rather than later. We are hurried from one activity to another. Add to that career responsibilities. Their childhood is washed away in a whirlwind of impatience. As a grandparent you have the reflection of knowing how quickly those childhood years passed and you know that patience is worth it. When they want to play, I have no problem dropping what I am doing and playing in the floor with them or talking to them. I don’t get as frustrated or angry if they don’t listen. Patience comes much easier because I have more perspective of who they are and who they will become.
I am wiser
Sometimes that might be questionable, but in general, I am much more wise today than I was when my children were small. I understand the value to time a little better. I am more clear about which values are important and which ones are not. I have come to realize that there are very few things that are not negotiable or should never change. I am much less intimidated by how others do things than I was when I was younger. I do not feel like I have to be like everyone else or do what everyone else does or have what everyone else has. I understand better the value of traditions and family. I have a better grasp of what they need to be prepared for and want to make sure those values are instilled in them. Wisdom doesn’t always come with age, but it should. As a grandparent, I want to make sure they have what is most important. Wisdom is understanding what is most important.
I love deeper
I loved my children when I was a young parent. That was never a question. I am not sure I always understood the value of love. As with many young parents, I was busy trying to create a life that I thought everyone wanted or needed. I worked long hours. I was always busy with some project or idea. I appreciate the love for my own children now better than I did when they were younger. I am more intent on expressing that and experiencing that with them. As a grandparent, I am definitely more conscious of that. I am aware of their needs and how meeting their needs and expressing myself in their language lets them experience love better. I want them to know that I am always a refuge for them. There is nothing they can do that I would not still love them. I am constantly looking for ways to reinforce to them that I love them.
Whether you are prepared or not, life moves on. Surprises come our way. You may find as I did that you are more prepared for those things than you thought. Appreciate the growth in your own life and be willing to share it with others.