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Grandparenting Isn’t Just Frosting On A Cupcake: Why Grandkids Need Their Grandparents


Grandparenting Isn’t Just Frosting On A Cupcake: Why Grandkids Need Their Grandparents

When I reflect on my parents as grandmother and grandfather, not mom and dad, they were the fun ones with the grandkids.  They were not how I remember my mom and dad growing up.  They were the disciplinarians trying to keep their five daughters in line.  Where are you going?  Who will you be with?  Be home no later than midnight since "nothing good ever happens after midnight."  But with the grandkids, they didn't have that responsibility.  They could teach them to fish, tell stories about magical fairies, bury "dinosaur" eggs for the kids to find.  They had endless treats like ice cream, cookies, and cupcakes with extra frosting.  But grandprenting, I have learned, is much more than frosting on cupcakes.


Grandparents link the past to the present, all while helping grandkids find their way to the future.  The grandkids' parents were kids once too who might need to be reminded about their youth.  Maybe little Tyler is running around crazy, swinging from the trees and jumping in mud puddles, just like his dad. Or Sage is spinning in her twirly dress, dancing to the music in her head, just like her mom.  But it is also reminding them of their heritage.  Aunt Kathryn, the businesswoman in the 1920s, had that entrepreneurial spirit like her grand-niece.  It is the responsibility of grandparents to join the links to the past.


The grandparents remember the patriotic duty of the country.  America united during WWII, rationing items for the country's sake and serving to preserve freedom.  Their service and sacrifice earned them the title of the Greatest Generation.  There are still survivors out there from the Holocaust who can attest to the atrocities.  And we need to honor the veterans at the WWII War Memorial.  A meaningful field trip to take grandkids on (or great-grandkids).


We must recognize that the Grandparents earned their stripes.  This isn't their first rodeo. As my mom used to say, "I might not know now or know tomorrow, but I will eventually know the truth."  They have probably heard or seen it all.  A three-year-old temper tantrum, yep.  A nine-year-old punching a hole in the wall, yep.  A teenager not coming home after prom, yep.  They can be the sounding board for handling a difficult situation—a different point of view.


Grandparents provide a sanity break for parents.  Drop them off at grandmother and grandfathers for a week of summer camp.  In our case, it was called Camp Cadillac, where the kids could swim, fish, and kayak. A perfect option for those parents balancing work and family, especially in summer.  I know many grandparents who provided homeschooling during the COVID19 crisis—a huge relief for parents struggling with doing it all.  But even during regular times, grandparents can be that extra hand for before and after-school childcare or simply a date night for the parents.  What is more fun than going to grandmother’s and grandfather’s house for the night, weekend, or a week of camp?


Giving children a perspective on how to overcome a loss would be another benefit of grandparents.  A child could have a simple loss of a teddy bear or a friend that moved away.  However, it could be a significant loss of an aunt, uncle, or parent.  Grandparents are role models on how to overcome grief and move on with a good life.  The pain may not leave, but the child will learn that life goes on and it is okay.  Grandparents, at this point, would most likely have buried their grandparents and parents, to name a few.  I personally have been to more funerals than I can count.  Each one brings grief and tears, but it is also a time to celebrate the person's life that passed away.


We know that preaching doesn’t help parents or children, but leading by watching, listening, and asking questions is a grandparents' gift.  When we pay attention to our grandchildren, we can notice things that a parent or teacher might miss.  Observing that little Mason doesn't know how to rhyme could be the first sign of dyslexia.  Listening to little Peyton cry about his lost stuffed Froggie teaches empathy and compassion.  Asking about not just Tyler's day at school but his grass-stained jeans, ketchup on his shirt, and paint on his face allow grandchildren to recount the joys of the day.  Being a noticer can bring outside but caring perspective.


A grandparent cannot solve various family difficult situations, but they can help build the grandkids' foundation for the future.  Like a cupcake needing a solid base before the frosting is put on, the family needs a strong family unit.  Grandparents provide those ingredients for the parents to mix together.  One without the other won't make a good cupcake.  Although grandparents are more than just frosting, it is the frosting that is fun and oh so sweet.  And that is the added benefit of grandparenting, fantastical frosting to create a close relationship with grandkids.


Hi I'm new but wanted to join in. I watch my granson 3 days a week and it really has been a life saver  for me. I'm a Domestic Violence survivor, dealling with trying to move on from a 27 year relationship that about killed me. Gavin is 4 and I truely feel he saved my sanity. Its so hard trying to find my place and its super hard cause I just lost my Mom last year. Focusing of him has helped far more than theropy even though I do that too. Thanks for letting me join in.

Donna M Grimes
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