On October 5, 2009, during a champagne toast at Café Marly which overlooks the Louvre Pyramid, I found out I was going to be a grandmother for the first time. There were tears (mine), hugs all around and thoughts of baby clothes (also mine!) At that point, we thought it was a Smithling, not Smithlings, but life has a way of keeping you on your toes. And now just under ten years later, I am the grandmother of seven.
I relish my role of grandmother. But what makes a good grandparent? Obviously, that is a subjective. There are as many ways to grandparent as there are grandparents. My goal is to be true to my own nature in grandparenting, while at the same time being sensitive to the parental values and ideals of our grandchildren’s parents.
My sons have now each formed their own nuclear families of which I am a part, but I am not primary. As my son Adam put it, “…a family begets a family…” While each of these new family units came from Mr. Smith and me, they are each unique with their own style. So I decided to to ask them what attributes each of them believes make for a good grandparent.
Elliot, our middle son, had two main qualities that quickly popped into his head that he values in grandparents. Unconditional love and importance of traditions. As my sons were growing older, marrying and having families of their own, I had been looking to establish new traditions to replace the ones that were no longer feasible. That is how Camp Grandma was born! I believe it is a tradition each and every one of my family looks forward to and thoroughly enjoys. Unconditional love – I loved my grandchildren before they were ever born and I will love them – unconditionally – until the day I die.
The traits my oldest son is most looking for in a grandparent is patience and taking a genuine interest in their grandchildren’s lives. As a grandparent, I have the luxury of operating from the perspective of almost forty years of being a parent and seeing the amazing men my sons have grown into. That perspective comes in very handy in being patient. I’m not bogged down in the day-to-day of raising children as the parents are, and I know that no matter what stage they are in – good or bad – it will pass. I find my grandchildren some of the most interesting people I know and I am constantly amazed at the thoughts they have and the subjects they are interested in. I must admit when I was raising my sons, I didn’t always find it fascinating. Parenting can be downright boring and grueling. But grandparenting is different. Alex Haley once said, “No one can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” I am happy to be the stardust.
My youngest son and newest father believes presence is the most important quality in a grandparent. Luckily he recognizes that physical presence can be a challenge and we are both grateful for being part of the digital age where FaceTime, Instagram and email make being a presence in your grandchild’s life possible where long distances are involved. Adam also responded that grandparents have some living perspective of different times and ideas and that is of value to help the grandchildren realize the larger arc of history beyond the 24-hour news cycle.
I appreciated my sons sharing their thoughts on grandparenting. While I like to think I have a few good years left in me, I do think about my legacy. If I instill in my grandchildren the knowledge of how special each of them is and that I loved them unconditionally, I will be happy.
Come back on Wednesday to see what my grandchildren think is important in a grandparent!
C’est la vie…