06/10/2015 07:27 am ET Updated Jun 10, 2015

Why It's Scary Becoming A Grandparent



From the moment I learned my husband and I would be parents up until those three little ones we eventually birthed left our nest, I was a paranoid, overprotective mother. I worried during each of my pregnancies, fretted over growth charts as my newborns grew, panicked about tiny things that might go wrong, every danger that could feasibly come my children’s way.

Fortunately, little went wrong, and my three daughters grew into happy, healthy, productive adults.

Then one of those daughters became a mother, and I became a grandma. Instantaneously, all those scary moments I endured as a parent paled in comparison. Being a grandparent, I have found, is the scariest job of all.

While it's true that as a grandma there are no responsibilities, no obligations, it's also true that as a grandma, there also is no control. And that is what makes it so scary.

Grandparenting is Not Parenting All Over
I kept my three daughters in a virtual bubble. Perhaps not the right tack to take, I admit, but my precious babies stayed safe. My daughter, though, has two boys. And boys don’t appreciate being placed in a bubble. Girls apparently don’t either, I now realize, as I witness my daughter refusing to follow in my parenting footsteps and watch her stray from my “safe” ways.

It began the moment my daughter learned she was pregnant. With both of my grandsons, my daughter didn’t take the prenatal vitamins I thought were best. She had far more ultrasounds than I did (forget that ultrasounds weren’t typical when I birthed babes). And she exercised up until mere days before the births of her boys — even ran a half-marathon while pregnant with the second.

Oh, the fear and worry that swirled around those pregnancies—for me, not my daughter.

As my grandsons grew, that daughter of mine continued along a parenting path that I perceived as perilous. I’m talking about food cut in pieces that are twice as big as the (yes, minced) pieces that I would consider safe. I'm also talking about allowing the boys to wrestle with their (yes, gentle giant) golden retriever, wrestle with one another and their (yes, doting) dad, too.

Those boys, from an early age, went up and down stairs unassisted except for demands that they hold onto the handrail. She now allows them to jump from the bottom couple of steps—onto a tile floor, no less. Speaking of jumping, they also jump on the (yes, in-ground) trampoline in their backyard. The boys are 5 and 2.

I admit an in-ground trampoline is better than an in-ground swimming pool in their backyard. That said, I unwittingly fed into my own fear frenzy when I gave my grandsons an inflatable pool in the shape of the Batmobile. A recent video message from my daughter showed the boys enjoying the pool—by standing on the hood portion and shouting “Head first!” before splashing down into the water. They splash on their bottoms for now, yet I fear they’ll soon follow their own lead and truly try the “head first” method.

A more recent scare? That daughter of mine is considering bunk beds for those rambunctious boys. All I envision is my grandsons attempting the “head first!” dives from the top bunk.

Such things scare me to no end. And as a grandma, I worry double: I fear for my grandchild’s safety and wellbeing and for my daughter and her husband—the parents of the little one—who would deal with the pain and suffering as well.

Keep Your Worries to Yourself
I cringe about all of these things—on the inside. I have never said such things out loud to my daughter. Well, almost never. My daughter is a conscientious parent with the safety of her beloved boys top-of-mind. There is no need to express my fears again and again. She knows them. In fact, she'll often preface conversations or text messages with soothing words to keep me gorunded when she tells me about the boys latest exploits.

Frankly, if I had serious concerns about my daughter’s mothering methods, I would keep those to myself, too—unless my grandsons were unquestionably in harm’s way. I want my daughter to know I trust her judgement, appreciate her incredible job of parenting the sons she birthed, the grandsons she shares with me. And deep down know something else, too: waging war over my worries could lead my daughter, gatekeeper to my grandsons, to close that gate, and possibly lock it forever.

I can’t imagine such drastic measures. But deep in the heart of all grandparents is that unbearable possibility, no matter how unlikely it is. For a grandparent, it is the scariest thought of all. And it's that thought that puts all the other concerns of the grandma gig into perspective, rendering them not worth being scared about at all.

Lisa Carpenter is a mother, grandmother and writer of the blog Grandma's Briefs. You can read more of her musings at

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