In March, I will mark an important anniversary — my tenth year as a grandfather. Little did I know how much I would enjoy what I have come to realize is the best job in the world.
I knew neither of my grandfathers. My mother’s father died when she was 11; the state of medicine at the time was such that doctors couldn’t always tell the difference between an upset stomach and appendicitis. My father’s father died when I was nine months old; I relied on my grandmother to tell me stories about him. I had no doubts about how spoiled I would have been had he lived longer.
It was a different world, and at the time of his death I was the only son of an only son. Many times, both my grandmother and father told me the story of how, dying at home, he held on until my family could arrive. He was mostly delirious, and he kept asking for the baby. My father put me on the bed with him, and he smiled. It was enough. A few hours later, he was gone.
We moved away from our hometowns, so what my children saw of their grandparents was limited. Both of their grandfathers were older than the grandmothers and died when my children were still young.
I didn’t have much experience to call upon when my grandson was born. I quickly discovered I didn’t need any. The job and how to do it came naturally. That’s because it’s the grandchildren who teach you how to do it. The most important qualification is simply showing up and being there. You only have to listen and respond accordingly.
Here are 10 reasons why being a grandfather is the best job in the world, as taught by my three grandsons.
(1) You get to be a kid again. You play hide and seek. Backyard baseball. Dinosaurs. Board games. And you rediscover the joys of swings, parks, and stuff kids love to do.
(2) You get to wear funny hats and play with toys, and no one thinks you’re weird. One of my wife’s favorite pictures of me is wearing a knitted monster hat while playing a toy xylophone. You can do this even when the grandkids aren’t around, because you have to test the toys. And Legos!
(3) Your children worry that you’re teaching their children criminal activities. It’s payback time. And there’s no mischief like the mischief created by a grandfather and his grandchildren.
(4) You watch little faces light up whenever they see you. They see you walking in the door, and you immediately hear an ecstatic “Grandpa!” They know fun lies ahead. Your daughter-in-law knows trouble lies ahead.
(5) Your grandkids love the idea of an adult who doesn’t act like an adult. Kids need at least one adult in their lives who isn’t concerned that the world always judges children’s behavior as major moral failings by the parents. Grandfathers shrug off pressure to constantly correct and apologize.
(6) You have a new audience for old jokes. Your children have heard the jokes, at least a dozen times. Not so the grandchildren. You can watch their eyes light up when you teach them nursery rhymes: “Little Miss Muffet / sat on a tuffet, / eating of curds and whey. / Along came a spider / and sat down beside her / and she took off her shoe and beat it to death!” One of my grandsons refers to these as “the real nursery rhymes,” and I won’t tell him anything different.
(7) You have a new audience for old stories. You can read Make Way for Ducklings, Winnie-the-Pooh, Peter Rabbit, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and dozens of other classics to little ears hearing them for the first time. You can also tell stories about how their father got into trouble when he was a boy; they love those stories.
(8) Your grandkids know you’re deliberately losing a board game and they love you for it. Sometimes, it isn’t deliberate.
(9) Your grandkids think it’s hysterical when they beat you at a video game in the first 90 seconds. “Grandpa, don’t you know anything about Sonic the Hedgehog?”
(10) Your grandkids discover that at least one adult loves them unconditionally, no matter what they do, and never yells at them when they do something wrong or stupid. In fact, sometimes (speaking for a friend) grandfathers and grandchildren get into trouble at the same time. Partners in crime!
And a bonus reason: Grandkids give you all kinds of new stories to tell.
You know what you’re doing, of course. You’re pouring fun and adventures into your grandchildren. You’re giving them a connection to past lives, the family members they’ll never know. You’re telling them they matter, just for being who they are. And you’re giving them memories that will come back when they have their own grandchildren, and you’re no longer around to recite bizarre versions of nursery rhymes.
I wouldn’t trade this job for anything.
Top photo by Lindsey M. Shepherd, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Other photographs by Stephanie Young. Post by Glynn Young.
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Donna Falcone says
Glynn I could not love this more!
Martha J Orlando says
Being a grandparent is the best job in the world, hands down, Glynn! Your post here today really made me smile and rejoice anew that I have three beautiful granddaughters.
Michele Morin says
Oh… so true! All of it!
Sandra Heska King says
This goes for grandmothers, too! I kind of missed out on grandmothering the two oldest, mostly the oldest, because I ended up as a coparent with a teen mom. Though the mom would argue that I spoiled too much and that it was a good thing we moved 1000 miles away. The jury is still out as to whether I helped or hindered her recovery this past summer. LOL.
L.L. Barkat says
I was listening to an On Being podcast about the role of babies and teens in preserving culture (the way they think helps keep things fresh for the human species), but it was also notable that the interviewee gave time to the role of grandparents, seeing this role as just as important in a different way: connecting us to what’s worked in the past. (Apparently, Orca whales rely a good deal on grandma whales to teach them important things, for instance.)
Now, I’m not sure the interviewee would have suspected just what *grandpas* might be teaching the species. (Is there an Orca version of Miss Muffet? 😉 )
Overall, I loved this, Glynn. Your grandchildren have taught you well. (It is so good to see you laughing so hard with them, too. 🙂 )
Diana Trautwein says
Oh, I LOVE THIS. And I really enjoy seeing photos of the actual person who wrote it. That is something I have always missed in this space.
Diane Stephenson says
Great post Glynn. I never married so have never known the joy of children let alone grandchildren. But I am now enjoying a friend’s grandchildren up close, and it’s wonderful. It’s almost like being a grandma in some ways. I love to watch them grow and interact with each other.