March 19, 2018

Grandparenting Without The Rocking Chair

Grandparents have a certain look to them; they have grey hair, a bit stooped over, and smell like cookies, right? That’s not the case anymore. Unless you were a teen parent the average age to become a first time grandparent is somewhere in your 40’s to early 50’s. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, teen pregnancies of teens aged 15-19 accounted for 229,715 births in 2015 . [1] Add (considering those teen’s kids not having kids as teens) in 20 years- some young grandparents will be part of the mix twenty years from 2015. If those teen kids of teen parents have kids; that’s a story for a different day, (32 and Grandma). Sticking with our original assumption of being 40ish-50ish what does that look like now in 2018?

It’s not your child

If you were an awesome parent, (I’m sure that you were), the temptation to provide parenting advice may at times seem overwhelming. You’ve done your job and for many you may still have minor children at home that need your love and affection; and more importantly your time. Even if your kids are all out of the home, filling the nest with grandchildren isn’t the answer. Your role includes the occasional tip on how to get the baby to sleep through the night, or the importance of introducing a second language before age three. These tips may be ready to roll off your tongue, but…you’re the grandparent; like it or not your grandchild has parents. The time you spend with your grandchild in their early years may be as the babysitter, (I prefer grandparenting as the title), and that time spent is invaluable as it gives you time to make memories and begin to introduce that second language. Hopefully their parents will see their child’s first steps, teach them their first words; but your presence will help them feel safe and provide perhaps much needed rest or financial relief for the parents.

Just call me Papa

Vanity comes in many forms and for young grandparents something as simple as what you’ll be called may cause discomfort but is necessary to avoid confusion. Your grandchild has a mom and a dad, (or one or the other), so your child and son- or daughter-in-law need to be able to call you something in your grandchild’s presence to avoid having more than one mom or dad in the house. If grandma or grandmother seems too old or too formal there’s always the simpler version of G-Ma and/or for the glamorous young grandmother there’s always Glamma. For the grandfathers in the mix that still dye their hair and are figuring out what convertible they want for their midlife crisis, they might opt for something as simple as G-Pa or PaPa to do the trick. For multiple sets of grandparents often first names are used, for example, G-Pa Brian.

No walkers allowed

Toddlers are fast, sneaky fast, and because you’re a young grandparent you can use your youth to chase them. At 45 to 55 you should still have some get-up in your get-up and go and you’ll need every ounce of it to chase your grandchildren around. Being able to get into the sand with a two-year-old to show them how to build a sandcastle or to dig a hole in the ground with the heel of your shoe to play marbles is important. It’s your job as the grandparent to pass along your knowledge and skills at the beach and with other games and traditions; hopefully you won’t need help to get back up from the ground after teaching them to your grandchildren. A lot of time has passed since your children were little and there are probably a lot of things you miss; as a young grandparent you can relive some of those experiences. Reading to your infant or toddler grandchild can open up a world of possibilities for them to learn, at first your voice, but then to hear your impressions of the characters between the pages and to discover far off lands of pirates and mystery providing “page time” long before screen time.

Time is on your side

The most important part of being a young grandparent is that time is on your side. There are disadvantages but they’re the same disadvantages you had as a parent such as still working your 9-5 job. Working your 9-5 is also an advantage as you have active income to share, um, spoil your grandchildren with. Also, you’ve been at your job awhile and with your nest empty your accumulated vacation time and extra income can now go into spending time with your grandchildren. With an infant and toddler, your time may be spent taking some of the financial burden off of your own children by providing free child care, helping with diapers, or the newest greatest car seat to help you and your children feel safer, (even if the car seat is nicer than the car it’s in). By spending this time physically, (playing in the sand to start), mentally, (do those flash cards gramps), and emotionally, providing that extra layer of time and love will pay off in the long run.

Midlife what?

Your dreams of the sporty little two-seat convertible may have to be put on hold. As the young grandparent you’ll be better off opting for a treadmill to keep in shape and water wings for the grandkids along with a sensible vehicle for when you have to play taxi bringing the kids to soccer for 3-year-olds; (looks a lot like gold fish chasing food). Every minute you have to spare for your grandchildren will take away stress from your kids, add memories that are priceless, and you could be around to see them graduate kindergarten, high school, and as a young grandparent maybe even see them graduate college. Time is something that can never be regained once lost; spending that time on your grandchildren is time well spent.


[1] Reproductive Health: Teen Pregnancy link

About the Author:
Brian Keith Foreman is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist working in the field of psychology as an instructor for multiple universities, as a professor, he has taught child development courses and as a human service worker has worked with children and their families for over 25 years. Also, since 2005, Brian is a newspaper columnist and writes a column titled Family Matters where mostly uses his family as an example of the do’s and don’t’s of parenting.