During the past six months I’ve gone from being the grandfather of one four-year-old to becoming the grandfather of two additional babies. Both boys.
I’m certainly pleased for my daughter and step-daughter and my sons-in-law, but this brings up an issue I’m almost hesitant to talk about. I don’t know how to be a grandfather. Not what I consider a good one, anyhow. I’m not the kind of fellow a child is apt to want to cuddle up with.
And what kind of grandfather isn’t a good cudler?
If you’ve read my recent posts about my grandparents, you already know that my contact with my paternal grandfather was basically non-existent–and somewhat limited with my maternal grandfather because of distance. Although I got along fine with “Cap’n Bob” Williford, we lived hours away and didn’t get to visit him and “Miss Virgie” more than once or twice a year.
By the time he died, my contacts with him had grown fewer and fewer, and my affection for him had dwindled proportionately. No longer relevant were my memories of walking downtown where he bought me a small pocketknife my mom didn’t want me to have. Or of his teaching me to play checkers more aggressively; that was a game he took quite seriously. The same with croquet. Or of his taking me with him down the lane to slop the hogs.
Those were times I’d enjoyed as a child, but not as a teen. So whatever grandparenting techniques I might have learned in my early life if I’d been more attentive, I failed to grasp.
If I thought I lived a distance from my grandfather, that distance was minor compared to the distance from my grandkids today. One lives in Las Vegas–might as well say on another planet–and the other two in Orlando. A relatively short flight, but a long drive. My wife must use her vacation time judiciously, so we normally can’t come to Orlando–we’re visiting there right now–more than once a year.
Many of you can relate.
So the inability to see the grandchildren often keeps me from feeling as close to them as I would like.
But there’s another problem. Although I had friends growing up, I was apt to be a loner much of the time. Especially as a teen. Add to that the fact I was an only child, and you can see that I wasn’t that used to being around children. Not on a real close basis, anyhow.
I’m thankful that my grand-kids live in the same city with other grandparents. I don’t know about the grandmother in Las Vegas, but the grandparents in Orlando are great. I’ll bet if I were around Bob and Cindy on a regular basis I might feel more comfortable with my grandfathering efforts.
Just when I thought I’d almost finished writing this post, something relevant struck me. I’m the father of a daughter and the stepfather–although as adults they don’t view me that way–of two other girls. I’m used to dealing with girls. Would grandfathering have been easier if one or more girls had been involved? I’d almost bet it would.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I love my grandchildren. That’s the most important thing, isn’t it? Nonetheless, I hope I can somehow learn to become a person they’ll remember more fondly when I’m gone than I do my grandfathers.
I suppose every good parent wishes he had done a better job with his children, and maybe that’s true of grandfathers as well. At least I’m wondering about it now while my grandchildren are young enough for me to have a chance to improve.
This post has been very difficult to write. Maybe because the subject is so personal. And maybe because the problem is so current. Any comments or advice will be welcome.
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