The current crop of new grandparents is from our baby boomer generation. That includes retired editor and writer Alan Paul of Hawthorne, New Jersey, who brings us up to date on what it means to him to be “grandfathered in.”
It’s been about four months since I wrote a piece for Boomer Café which I called, “Grandfathered In,” chronicling the birth of my first grandchild, Ellis Rose. After having had some time to absorb this grandparenting thing, I want to add a few more observations.
The first, as everyone who has already experienced this grand adventure told me, is yes, the wonderful does get wonderfuller and wonderfuller. While I always kind of expected to enjoy the experience of being a grandfather, the whole thing is much more emotionally charged and fraught with love than I ever thought possible.
My wife Jan (Grandmother Codename: “Lovey”) and I (Grandfather Codename: “Poppa”) thankfully get to see our delightful little crumb-snatcher, Ellis Rose, weekly. We look forward to these visits as though they were precious gifts from God. Which, of course, they are (even if we have to schlep to Brooklyn to get the gift.)
As we are becoming adjusted to our new station in life, the “weird” has all but disappeared from the equation … except for one rather obvious thing, which was for some reason unanticipated by yours truly: When you have a child, you actually “have” that child. That is to say, the baby is yours until the day comes that she flees the nest and is no longer yours. In truth, as every parent will attest, that day never actually comes because you never stop thinking of her as “yours.” As I am wont to say, “Your most important job as a parent is preparing your children to live without you.” You happily give them the roots, and reluctantly, but dutifully, give them the wings. But though they fly, they will always be yours in almost every way. In your own mind, anyway.
When you have a grandbaby, the depth and breadth of the love you experience for that child is virtually identical to that which you have for your own child. But herein lies the difference: there is no “own” involved, in any sense of that word. As deeply as you feel for this “grand child,” you must acknowledge and accept that she is “yours” in only a very limited way. You must share her with many people, some of whom are as important in her life as you may be; perhaps even more so. And though you want as many people as possible to love your grandchild, there is a trace of disappointment, even envy, which comes along for the ride.
I was astonished, and a little ashamed of myself, when this all finally dawned upon me. But this is, of course, smack dab within the circumference of the circle of life. What I must strive to do in my new role as Poppa, is to be the best Poppa I am capable of being. And in doing so, I can hope to become a significant part of Ellis’s life. She can never be mine; I understand this now. But, for better or worse, for as long as I live and breathe, I will always be hers.
Thanks, again, Big Guy.