My son told me recently that his new bride is pregnant, and that I was going to be a grandfather for the first time early next year. My reaction was pure joy. It was surreal. And then when I saw the first sonogram picture of my grandchild, it all became real.
Bill Cosby used to say that no one is a real adult until they’ve become a parent. Well, I think no one is a real senior citizen until they’ve become a grandparent. And at age 60, I am now ready to be a grandparent.
Grandparenthood, from all reports, is one of the most marvelous things we over-50s can experience. Our friends who already have grandchildren say that it’s the best of parenthood, with none of the downside. You can leave all the unpleasant things for their parents to take care, and you can spoil them by letting them do all things they can’t get away with at home.
I know this from personal experience as a parent. When we had our children, my wife would often watch her mother’s interaction with our kids and say, “Who is this woman? This can’t be the strict parent I grew up with.” Things that were inviolate rules when they were parents, now become mere guidelines when acting as grandparents. In fact, grandparents sometimes seem to conspire with grandchildren against their parents. It’s like they have a common enemy – that mean parent who says the kids can’t have a pet.
From my standpoint, grandparenthood is really a do-over. You get another chance to be a parent, and correct all the mistakes you made. It’s like a parenting mulligan. Now that I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, I’m ready to do it right this time. But more to the point, I won’t be phoning it in this time, which looking back, I fear I may have done the first time more that I’d like to admit.
I think most over-50 parents feel as I do that our children’s childhoods flew by too fast. I know that at the time it felt like an ordeal to get through. I used to joke about how on their 18th birthday my kids would get a birthday card from me with a notice that the lease on their bedrooms was up, and they were now financially independent. Of course, that didn’t happen. Our daughter still lives with us, and I’m glad of it. She and her boyfriend provide invaluable assistance to her aging parents.
But I do think there’s something about being a grandparent that gives those of us on the right side of 50 a feeling of a chance at redemption. Sure, I may have delivered a mediocre performance as a parent, but I’m going to blow them away in the second act as a grandparent.
Now, how old do my grandchildren have to be before I can introduce them to the joys of licorice and pretzel sticks?