Life as a new grandparent looks stress-free and guilt-free too

January 23, 2011 

I'm suffering from an injury that I like to call "grandparent whiplash." It happened while going from zero to three grandchildren in just three weeks.

Being a typical litigious American, my first reaction was to look around for somebody I could sue. But then I remembered: I have only myself to blame.

Some parents aspire to become grandparents almost before their own children get married. Not me.

Those of us who had their children early in life looked forward to that all-too-brief period between kids and grandkids. In that moment of time, you’re free again. You’re just a carefree couple who can do whatever you want, whenever you want.

But once the grandchildren arrive, everything changes. Suddenly, you have obligations again. You are now expected to visit them and offer up your own long weekends so the newly exhausted parents can go off and have fun.

And then there’s the big one. Becoming a grandparent means acknowledging your real age and that means you-know-who is coming around the corner at a faster clip.

These are the things I feared.

But then, I actually acquired a litter of grandchildren. A girl came first before Christmas and two boys came together on New Year’s Day.

Now things look differently to me. After you hold the newborn child of your daughter and see for yourself the love and caring she has for this baby, you gain a new perspective. You say, “What happened to that insolent, petulant teenager who would never listen to me?” And then it starts to hit you: This won’t be like parenting at all.

Instead of planning birthday parties for a dozen unruly adolescents, the grandkids and I will be having our own parties. Instead of trips to the dentist, we’ll be having hikes in the mountains.

I won’t be the “big meany” making children cry over having to do their homework, and I won’t have to do it with them. I couldn’t anyway. After a mere half-hour of watching me staring blankly at some new math problem, the child would begin to question their intellectual lineage.

When they become toddlers and take off unexpectedly in some random direction for no apparent reason, their parents will be the ones chasing them down. I’ll do my running at the YMCA.

When birthdays and Christmas come around, I won’t be expected to provide the latest personal improvement device, which we used to call toys. No sir, nothing so boring will come out of my wallet. Grandparents get to provide the really fun stuff that kids actually use in play. Like drum sets.

No little feet will come pattering into my room at 2 a.m. because they fell out of bed, soaked themselves or just figured, “What the heck, let’s get everybody up and play.”

Grandparents, I’m starting to realize, get to sleep through the night because, heck, they can’t hear anything anyway.

And if you just need to get away from the commotion for a while, lock yourself in the bathroom. After a certain age, nobody will regard that as odd.

So I think I’m going to like this new role as a grandparent. It not only looks stress-free but guilt-free as well.

Nobody blames the grandparent if the kid turns out poorly. Therapists’ couches are not littered with weary adults saying, “It’s my grandfather’s fault.”

George Le Masurier, publisher of The Olympian, can be reached at 360-357-0206 or glemasurier@theolympian .com.

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