Becoming a grandfather has the potential to be one of the defining events in a man’s life, on par with becoming a father or a husband. There are a handful of events in any man’s life which, if taken seriously, will significantly alter his perception of the world and his role within it. Sometimes these events arrive unexpectedly or with little warning and require some effort to adjust and embrace. As I am slowly adjusting to being a grandfather, I have also reflected on what it is that makes grandfathers unique and special.
At the risk of applying too many stereotypes which clearly do not represent all grandfathers, it seems to me that there are a few reasons why grandfathers are often dearly loved by their grandchildren. At their best, grandfathers have a unique and irreplaceable opportunity for positive influence.
I make no claim to having mastered the role of grandfather. In fact, I am painfully aware of how unprepared I really am for this role. My guess is that I will spend the rest of my life working on this – in the same way that I still strive to be a better parent even though my children are all grown. Relationships are dynamic, and the best role models are not those who have life figured out (none of us do), but those who continue to strive toward being a better person.
Following are a few of my observations about being a grandfather, and why grandfathers often hold a special place in their grandchild’s heart. These observations are certainly not comprehensive and are obviously not applicable in every situation, but they do fairly represent my own experiences.
It is easy to be too busy, particularly as a young parent trying to raise a family and establish a career. While there are plenty of modern exceptions as some people now work well into their 70s or beyond, grandfathers are often retired or otherwise working less than they did when their own children were young. Grandfathers often either have the time or are willing to make the time to spend with grandchildren.
People often mellow with age as they learn to slow down and to appreciate what is really important. Patience is a virtue, and one that many of us learn slowly. It is not uncommon for people to find it easier to be patient with their grandchildren than they were with their own children.
Priorities tend to evolve (and hopefully mature) over time. Things that seemed important when we were young may seem much less important as we grow older. Instead, new priorities take the place of the trivial and irrelevant – priorities like investing in people and spending time with loved ones.
We all amass a collection of knowledge (and hopefully wisdom) as we go through life. The best role models are able to share their experiences with younger generations in ways that are fresh and applicable. Grandfathers are often unique and interesting because they have so many experiences to share. A grandfather who is a skilled storyteller can be an endless source of entertainment and wisdom.
Compassion seems to come more easily as a grandparent than as a parent. To be sure, there are plenty of compassionate parents and uncompassionate grandparents. Nonetheless, the combination of patience, experiences, time, and priorities seems to make compassion more natural for grandparents.
Becoming a grandfather has turned out to be a unique and rewarding experience. To be honest, I was not in a hurry to assume this role. My reluctance was a combination of not wanting to feel old, feeling grossly unprepared, and being afraid of the responsibility that goes with being a grandfather. Regardless of my preparedness (or lack thereof), the time came. As I am adjusting, I am also learning to enjoy being a grandfather. Hopefully I am able to rise to the challenge.