Oh, if only grandparenting was a second chance to get it right! A spate of recent articles and blogs written by besotted grandparents would have us believe that our older, wiser selves can actually correct the missteps we took on our own parenting paths by avoiding eerily familiar parenting potholes as we deal with our grandchildren. Phrases such as "do-over" and "second chance" are liberally sprinkled through the essays I read while preparing for another visit from my granddaughter.
As much as I wish it were true, there are no second chances in parenting. I spent much of my second pregnancy swearing up and down that I would spare the new baby the beginner's bungles I made with his brother. The problem is, baby number two arrived on earth with an entirely different set of challenges. The issues I faced with my firstborn were nonexistent with his brother. I chose from a whole new menu of screw-ups the second time around.
My second child did not grant me a second chance to get everything right. Rather, he gave me my first crack at getting all new things wrong.
By the time son number three made his grand entrance into the world outside my womb, I was convinced I had this parenting thing mastered. He would be the beneficiary of everything I had learned from the pratfalls and the faux pas, the misjudgments and the snafus. So why did it take me 10 years to notice his feet were as flat as the sidewalks he walked on? Probably because the first two had perfectly arched feet and I never thought to check. Or I was too busy parenting to check. By the time I finally set out to correct the problem, his flat feet had become uncorrectable and I had chalked up another parenting flub sure to induce guilt for the next several decades.
I could become the paragon of grandparenting, the paradigm by which all other grandparents are measured, the apotheosis of my generation. Yet, no good deed in the grandparenting arena can ameliorate the mistakes I made with my own children. All I can do is be thankful that my mistakes were not of the life-threatening or abusive variety. I made garden-variety blunders. I lost my temper a few times too many. I was sometimes lax on discipline, and occasionally I was overly strict. But my love was unconditional and my efforts well intentioned. It's the best any of us can do.
I will not and cannot parent my granddaughter because as far as I'm concerned she is already perfection. I am blind to her issues and happy to hand the parenting reigns to my son and daughter-in-law. Let them be in charge of the hard stuff. I want to be in charge of ice cream.
If we are lucky we get one shot at the parenting gig. For a myriad of reasons an increasing number of grandparents are raising their grandchildren these days, and I wish them strength. For most of us however, grandparenting is not a do-over or a second chance. My children would resent me if they perceived I was trying to turn it into that. They are having their shot now. Their parenting bloopers will bear their personal stamp. I am simply there to watch, encourage and support them. If asked, and only if asked, I will offer soft advice from the sidelines. For me, that's the best seat in the house!
Eleven percent of grandparents have a grandchild living with them -- this jumps to 19 percent for African-American grandparents. Of the grandparent who have a grandchild living with them, 43 percent are the grandchild's primary caregiver. Some 16 percent of grandparents provide daycare services for their grandchildren when parents are at work or school.
More than 80 percent of grandparents report speaking to their grandchildren on the phone at least once a month and more than a third communicate through new technologies such as e-mail, Skype, and text messaging. Some 58 percent of respondents said they speak to their grandchildren at least once a week.
Forty percent of grandparents reported spending more than $500 on their grandchildren over the last 12 months. They widely report spending beyond traditional gifts, most noticeably contributing to education costs (53 percent), everyday living expenses (37 percent) and medical or dental costs (23 percent). Flickr photo by: AMagill.
The majority of grandparents in the telephone survey indicated that they have discussed morals and values (78%) and religion or spirituality (66%) with at least one of their grandchildren. Other topics include peer pressure or bullying; illegal drugs; and drinking and alcohol use. Thirty-seven percent report discussing dating or sex with at least one of their grandchildren.
As a corollary, nearly half (47%) indicated that they have attended religious services with their grandchildren in the past six months. Flickr photo via: cogdogblog.
About two-thirds of grandmothers said they take their grandchildren shopping (versus 58 percent of grandfathers); 63 percent of grandmothers cook or bake with the kids, versus 48 percent of grandfathers. Men were more likely to do physical activities with grandchildren -- 63 percent versus 56 percent of grandmothers.