Grandparenting can provide a renewed sense of wonder and purpose for us as older adults and a rekindling of memories. Memories of our own children’s early years–inhaling the scent of a newborn, pushing a little one “higher, higher!” on a swing, taking them to their first movie. Even memories of our own childhoods, and our own parents and grandparents, so long ago.
Nothing can turn back the clock, but as grandparents, we’re able to revel in that rarest of gifts: a second chance, a chance to be and do better this time, to make old wrongs rights; a chance to smooth over bad feelings. (And which family doesn’t have some of those?)
But second chances aren’t always offered automatically. Often they require us to take an honest look at the past and figure out how it might stand in the way of fulfilling family relationships in the present and future–and then try to do something about it.
Relationships with Adult Children
Grandparents, it comes down to this: our adult offspring are the gatekeepers to The Grandest Love. If there is too much unfinished business or lingering hurt, we don’t simply get to leapfrog over the unpleasantness and blithely take our do-over with the next generation. In certain aspects, grandparenting presents an opportunity to be a more engaged, impactful, loving family member than you may have been capable of being two or three decades ago. But it’s not a parenting do-over that wipes your slate clean.
You are not your grandchild’s parent. Nor are you your adult child’s full-fledged partner in raising the next generation, except in those circumstances where this is, in fact, the case (i.e., situations in which grandparents share or obtain custody of their grandchildren).
The Grandest Love is a new ballgame with new rules and new roles. Before you can embrace those roles to the fullest, however, there is often healing work to do within your family: acknowledging past hurts and missteps, rebuilding trust, seeking and offering forgiveness–with your adult children, primarily, but often also with their spouses, significant others, and even in-laws.
Photo Credit: Andrew Bowden on Flickr