October 13, 2021

When The Grandkids Begin To Chart Their Own Paths


Betty and I are supremely blessed. Our grandchildren live about five minutes away. We share time at church, play games, watch football, and have dinner together most Sundays. Whenever one or more of them appears in a school play or musical performance, usually we can attend.

We have gone to both Disneyland and Disney World together. Several times we have rented a large house to spend Christmas with each other in the snow and cold of Flagstaff. New Year's Eve sleepovers were a common occurrence for a few years. We played chess together, via Marco Polo, for several months of Covid. 

In short, we have a very close and marvelous relationship with the kids. We are their guardians if the need arises. They have benefited from having both sets of grandparents as part of their young lives close by and involved. When our youngest daughter is not out of town on a business trip, she jumps right in; we have a full house!

However, none of these good things can slow the tick of the clock. With our grandson about to turn 15, one granddaughter 13, and the youngest girl 11, we see things begin to change. No, there is no loss of love between us all. We continue to spend Sundays, birthdays, and occasional vacations with each other. 

Quite naturally, though, friendships are starting to take an increasing percentage of their time. At church, the older kids gravitate to a core group of friends, both before and immediately after the service.  A week or two ago, the almost 15-year-old worked up the courage to ask a girl to a homecoming dance. Suddenly, he realizes his gym shorts, sneakers, and too-small T-shirts, his everyday wardrobe, should be upgraded for the dance (and probably beyond).

The just-barely teenaged girl is quickly becoming a young lady. While she is not rushing headlong toward cosmetics, gossip, or becoming part of a clique at school, it is obvious her attentions are less likely to be directed toward Betty or me. Trying different looks and clothes combinations has become common. 

Even the youngest is showing signs of wanting a bit more distance from the Grans. She still sits by me at church but will then move over a seat to be closer to the rest of her family. 

Of course, all of this is perfectly normal; I would be worried if it were any other way. Just like our own daughters, these three individual human beings are beginning to find out how they fit into the world. Their sense of identity is not linked quite so tightly with either parents or grandparents. They are establishing some new boundaries.

I am very confident that because of the way they were raised, the family will remain irreplaceable, regardless of their stage of life. Even so, there is a palpable sadness as this natural maturity begins. It seems like just yesterday, they were giggling bundles of energy and questions, each fighting to be the closest to Gran or Grandad. We spoke, and they instantly stopped whatever they were doing to listen or react. 

We would once worry about taking an extended RV trip. After a month or so, when we returned home, each child would have changed and grown so much! How could we voluntarily miss all that?

Now, in a nod toward an adjustment that all parents and grandparents must make, Betty and I realize that in just a blink of the eye, the length of a vacation we take will not upset the grandkids. They will not worry that we are not instantly available. 

A month-long cruise to New Zealand? A five-week driving trip to Quebec and New England? Our decision of when, or even whether to go, will no longer be based on bothering the kids.  When we return, they will want to see the pictures and hear all about it. Each will be bursting to tell us about what has been happening in their lives since we left.

Each of us will understand the way of the world: children are meant to fly with the wind beneath their own wings. And, in the not too distant future, those wings will carry them out of our immediate orbit and on the journey of living.

It is expected, but it is still sad.


18 comments:

  1. Your granddaughters are the same age as mine. I am very aware of this transition. Our purpose as parents/grandparents is to launch these kids. The first separation is at birth, then those babies leave our arms, then the room, then the house, then the yard and beyond. And we can only hope that we gave them the tools to navigate that world at large and trust that they will. I think every child needs an adult other than their parents that they can go to for help to navigate that big world. I hope I can be that for my grandchildren.
    Welcome back, Bob. If you are a muse to grandkids as you are to us retirees, they're in good hands.

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    1. What a nice thing to say, Mona. Thank you.

      It is the natural order of life, but it a tough one.

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  2. Bob, this is an exceptionally well written post!

    Don't stop!

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    1. Thank you for your support. I have a lot more to write about.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this insight. We have a huge family including 13 grandkids (counting bonus ones) and we've seen that distancing with most of the older ones. The younger ones still call me "Gramma Kitty" and coming running when they see me.

    One thing I've noticed is that our conversations with the older ones has changed a lot. I had a recent video chat with one that lives out of state in which he told me about his first girlfriend. I had to WORK at keeping a non-shocked look on my face.

    When I became a grandparent, it was important to me that our grandkids considered us "a safe place to land." No judgement, only basic rules (based on their parents' rules), and plenty of chocolate sneaking (which the kids didn't know I had gotten it approved by their parents). I wanted them to know that we were always here for them.

    But you are right Bob: it's a tough part of life. I'm glad our older grandkids are spreading their wings, learning to drive, having dates, getting their hearts broken and learning how to be good adults. But I sure miss those snuggles.

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    1. Before I go any farther, I just clicked over to your blog, Retired Geek Woman and enjoy your writing style and topics. Actually, I tried to add it to my blog roll but Google says there is no feed. I can type retiredgeekwoman.com directly into the browser, and there you are. But I can't add it. Strange.

      Back to the topic at hand, 13 grandkids; I envy you because this transition period would last much lounger with different ages of kids. The youngest girl still insists on a hug both at our coming and going, but the other two are content with a wave.

      Like you, we maintain the concept of a judgement-free zone. That doesn't mean we don't answer questions or discuss socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior, but only in an informational way. All three kids love to read so they find the books at our home quite inviting.

      We are comfortable that the time we share and the experiences all three kids have had with us means we will not be forgotten.

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  4. At 7 & 4 our grandchildren are 5-10 years away from what you describe Bob. That time will go in the blink of an eye (most things seem to these days) and we cherish every moment we have with them now but when that day comes it will be bitter sweet. Bitter because we will miss them so and sweet to see them grow in to the independent men and women they were meant to be.

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    1. Loving means eventually losing, doesn't it? Not losing in an emotional sense, but the hugs and games and times together pass by much too quickly.

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  5. We are there right now with grandsons age 17 and 15. Ugh! It is hard. Thanks for writing about this emotional topic.

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    1. Teenagers: a tough time for us and our kids. Why should grandkids be any different!

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  6. Our grands are all still young and don't live near us, so you are very fortunate on that front. Also, my parents were very involved with my kids while they were growing up, as well as the kids of most of my brothers. FWIW, my 89 yo mom has become the sounding board and listening ear to several of them and she loves it. You just never know. Those early relationships set the groundwork for all kinds of surprises as we age.

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    1. We fully expect the grandkids to not only stay in touch, but to ask our advice, be a shoulder to cry on, and model our relationship with their grandchildren.

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  7. Very touching and pertinent post for me. Although I know it’s “normal” for the older grandkids but tough for me lately. I miss special things with them and worry more about them (just as I had with my own children). Oh how I wished a snuggle or popsicle would fix things like it would at age 3! I have 12, but two age groups we call the bigs (8, from14-18) and the littles (4, from 4-7). Now it’s not making varsity, mean girls, getting dumped, self esteem worries, bullying….. although we’re close their friends are so important. But I also love getting to know the people they are developing into! But I want life to be easier and safe….., can I say I have anxiety I didn’t know would come with grandkids cause like with kids you don’t know how much you’ll love them till it happens!

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    1. That's a good recap of the emotions that swirl around us as the grandchildren get older.

      We miss the young versions, but are very happy with the older people they are becoming. None of them has experienced some of the issues you mention, but all three are very independent thinkers.

      I really hope the 13 year old girl can avoid the nastiness of too many teenaged girls. She doesn't fit the normal young teen mold and that could spell some trouble for her.

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  8. Just a second reply, hopefully my first went through. There’s the generational gap of the grandkids and their phones!! Jeepers this granny doesn’t get always being on their phones and the girls always Snapchat, tiktok, and selfies!! Ha!

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    1. Betty and I are just amazed more young people aren't run over by cars or trucks. 90% spend all their time with their heads tilted down toward the phone. A crosswalk or traffic does not resister.

      I just came hone from the gym, and the same phenomenon: virtually everyone is fixated on their screens and earbuds. Occasionally I have to tap someone on the shoulder who is simply sitting at a machine I'd like to use. They haven't moved in 10 minutes. I am pretty sure remaining motionless for that long does not qualify as resting between exercise sets.

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  9. Our granddaughter is 2 1/2 and the joy of our lives. She has twin sisters on the way. So we are just getting started in this journey with grandkids. I love the closeness we have with our granddaughter and I am absorbed in those moments knowing that the growing up will come before we know it.

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    1. The concept of time is very elastic. When we are young it stretches on forever. When we are older it seems to whiz by much too quickly. Enjoy time with your grandchildren to the fullest extent. They will be in a college dorm before you know it.

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