Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An Instruction Manual for Grandparents

I’ve often wondered why there are not more books about the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren. There are plenty of books about parenting, but not so many about grandparenting. Guess folks don’t think it’s as important and they’re probably right.

I recall having separation anxiety when my children entered their teens. Back in those days, we lived in town and I saved up to buy a small place in the country to keep our horses and a few cows. When my son and daughter were little, they begged to go with me to the country. In fact, I could hardly sneak off anywhere without one or both in the seat beside me. 

Then, suddenly it seemed, they didn’t want to go anymore. That was about the time when they stopped hanging on my every word and started ignoring me. They never stopped watching me, just stopped listening. 

I used to say half-seriously that the little girl who used to sit on my knee and bring me iced tea after work went into her room one day and never came out. The son who begged me to play catch or to drive a tractor suddenly seemed more interested in girls and cars.

For the last few years, I have experienced almost the same thing with grandchildren. Lovely, lively babies who laughed at all my antics, loved hugs and kisses, and were easily entertained with the simplest things like a wiener roast or a simple campfire, became easily bored and hard to entertain. With the arrival of smart phones and I-pads, it got worse. 

Then, they started to slur their words and fail to articulate what they are trying to say. In other words, they mumbled a lot and talked too fast (and it’s not because of hearing loss). I couldn’t get them to take their eyes off their phones and gadgets long enough to find out anything about their lives. I sort of gave up. 

Jan chastised me. Said she was enjoying their teen years. She loves making pillows and quilts for them and teaching them her craft. I couldn’t relate, especially with the girls. I did not want those sweet little girls to turn into young women. Of course, it was a train that should not be stopped.

Before they got as big as us, we used to keep all seven overnight for a night or two. Those visits were filled with laughter and joy. Tiring, yes, but memorable. But the teen years brought a few arguments (with us and with each other) and they became a little harder work. The bigger kids seemed to take up the whole house plus some. I felt them slipping away.

But this past year has been a good one. Just when you think they have outgrown you for good, one calls to say she wants to drop by and bring her boyfriend before she returns to college in the fall. She doesn’t need our approval, but we are happy she sought it.

Then another called just back from being a camp counselor and wanted to renew old memories by riding my horse. Gave us a warm feeling. She also wrote us a letter at Christmas recounting her fond memories of the fun things we used to do at our place. Good to know she remembers.

Then another one called the other day to ask advice before a job interview. I don’t know if I helped her, but it warmed my heart that she asked. 

Getting news that a grandson had begun to heal a rift with his father was also heartwarming. I like to think he was inspired by the great relationship between his father and me.

We still have two in high school and one in middle school. The soon-to-be senior came over the other day and welded some fence for me and washed Jan’s car. The soon-to-be freshman made her first real quilt this year and had some adventures in cooking with GranJan. Our twelve-year-old boy had to have surgery that messed up his summer. But his courage and good humor inspired us all. 

Maybe we don’t need an instruction manual or book after all. As my old friend and farrier-philosopher Max Moody said about his grandchildren, “You just gotta pick ‘em up and hug ‘em once in a while.” 


2 comments:

pwhite said...

That was awesome. I would need several towels to absorb all the tears of joy and sometimes sadness that I have experienced with my nine. I remember how I probably hurt my grandfather's feelings when he was so happy to give me this watch . I said oooo it's old. That has remained with me for most of my years.

Darlene Jones said...

Sounds like you've built long lasting relationships with your grandchildren and that's what it's all about. Hugs and more hugs when they are little plus lots of time together pay off in the long run.