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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Best regards,

8 thoughts on “Grandfathering

  1. I’m not going to leave a hasty reply as I see this is really a concern of yours. I’m about to be a grandmother for the 18th time (great grand) and my oldest grandchild is 27. I should have some serious answers from experience. Just wanted you to know I’m pondering it, for real.


  2. Kids are people. Little people. Humans like us but without experience. What they need is experience. They know nothing and are just sitting there like a sponge by the seashore waiting for a wave to come by so they can soak up the water.
    You be the water. It’s just that simple.
    Now, there may be an adjustment time if they are not familiar with you. It may take some observtion on your part to figure out what sort of kid he/she is. Quiet. Onery. Pensive. Playful. There are all kinds and each one is probably best approached according to personality.
    Kids like gifts too. Not expensive ones. Unusual stuff. Cheap plastic toys from the drug store. Bubbles. Candy. You could ask what is her favorite candy. And buy a bunch and scatter them around the bedroom.
    Play miusic. Kids like that. Learn some kid songs that are funny.
    You could be the all-time best grandpa. Just be like a kid. Get down on your knees and play. Legos. Lincoln logs. Clay figures. whatever. Kids don’t want to be preached to or feel they are in a school environment. Buy some false teeth. A wig. Baloons. No end of the cheap things to do with kids.
    Oh, and enjoy yourself with them. When they get older they’ll remember you with feeling and then you can hammer them with moral stuff and they’ll listen.


  3. I love kids. I should have been a teacher. Should have had 5 or 6 kids. Some things just don’t work out. But I take advantage of all the kids I know. I am a favorite uncle to a bunch of neices. One thing I like to do with them is take them to a drug store like Rite Aid and say you have 60 seconds from the time we hit the door for you to fill your shirt with whatever you want – usually candy and ice creams, pens, pencils… and it’s so much fun! Sometimes they’re so worried about picking the right thing they only get a few things. I do all kinds of things that nobody else does and they love it. When they hear I’m coming to town they get all excited and say things like ”Uncle Tom’s coming. He’s the best there is” My brothers get jealous when they jump all over me. Since I’m only there for a short while I need to make it count. Once, I had saved up a big pile of coins. Took them to a swimming pool and said you have 3 breaths to get all you can grab and I threw them in the pool. Fun!!!


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