Looking Over the Edge

By Fred Kusch 

“To be able to watch your children’s children grow up is truly a blessing from above.” 
— Byron Pulsifer

In reflecting on being a grandpa, I found that my game plan is much like that of the current play of the Chicago Bears—lousy. My offense has been stymied by divorce and changing family dynamics, as well as distance and time between visits. I also realized that my role models for being a grandpa were limited. My dad died at 51 and never had more than a few months with his only grandchild at the time. I guess you’d say I was running blind into what I thought being gramps would be. I thus learned that I had the uncomfortable task of making it up as I go along.

I have been blessed to have seven “teachers” ranging in age from three to 14. This makes me think of being a grandpa in charge of a one-room schoolhouse. Dealing with the needs of seven kids and what turned out to be seven parents has been daunting, to say the least.

I have found that while being gramps can be exhausting and tough at times, it is rewarding and a lot more fun than parenting. In fact, it appears to be a universal joy—just ask others about their grandchildren and see how they respond!

After starting this chapter of my life with some trepidation and apprehension, I had a number of remarkable epiphanies that I hope you will realize earlier in the game than I did.

These invaluable benefits of being a grandparent are:

You get to develop a special friendship.

Mostly, you can chuck rules and routines. Kids want to have fun — and you get to be a kid again too! Your unique position in the family attracts a kind of “natural adoration” from the grandchildren. After all, you love them unconditionally—no expectations, no requirements. They’ve passed the test by being born. Your situation is ideal for becoming best friends and confidants. They can confide in you because they expect emotional support rather than rationality and behavior lessons.

As a grandparent, you are even anointed as a friend with special powers. You are a friend who can make little hurts feel better. You are also a friend who can reach the cookie jar!

You get to swim in the “Fountain of Youth.”

Being a grandparent is the best excuse to be a kid again. Although your grandchildren might guess that you’re 100, they have no concept of what that really means. To the contrary, they will naturally assume you have the same preposterous amount of energy that they do!

Forget societal pretenses and join your grandkids in staring at the clouds and exploring every leaf, twig, snake and bug on a tour of the yard. Get reacquainted with the child in you, the young at heart you.

You get to be the true you.

Children don’t care what you do in the real world. Teenagers might be impressed, but mostly they’ll appreciate you for being yourself. Relax and enjoy yourself with little people who love you simply because you exist. Think about it: If you value yourself, the children will value you as well. In turn, you’ll value yourself more and realize, after all this time, who you truly are.

You get to take the good times with you.

Because you can’t constantly be in attendance, “photograph” the happy moments with your grandchildren in your mind. Ignore negative situations by creating happy memories. Recapture that exquisite moment when your grandchild helped you blow out the candles on your birthday cake and then hugged you with all of his or her might. When someone asks how your birthday was, you can say it was wonderful.

You get to make the sky the limit.

Learn new skills without embarrassment, like getting caught up with the computer age or learning what an Xbox is. Your grandchildren will be thrilled to teach you. They get to show off and be the experts; you get to learn without pressure.

You get to build a new bridge with your children.

Grandchildren will bring you and your child closer. Your children may be grown, but this is the first time you can truly enjoy an adult relationship with them, as you are now parenting peers. You are now seen in a different light—one of respect and, yes, appreciation. They may actually call you now, for advice or just to chat.

You get to live longer.

Now hear this! Grandparents live longer. Human contact is vital to us all. We live for love. When you first looked into your grandchild’s eyes, did you see immortality or the completion of the circle of life? Until you experience your grandkids, you have not yet experienced everything. The experience is worth the wait. Love is everything.

You get to experience spirituality.

Now that I am connected with grandkids, every little thing seems related to a scheme of things bigger than me. It’s as if I am sensing and, yes, experiencing of the essence of nature itself. 

I challenge you, whether you are a grandparent to be or a veteran, to understand that these children are an extension and expression of you. They will reflect your relationship, be it joyful, playful, filled with unconditional love, or all of the above!

I have come to understand that they will be the cornerstone of your legacy. I challenge you to create a legacy of love and joyfulness, one that makes them smile when they think of you. May you experience it in all its glory.

“No cowboy was ever faster on the draw than a grandparent pulling a baby picture out of a wallet.”
— Author Unknown

Fred Kusch, president and CEO of JFK Associates, is a well-known speaker, author, consultant and business coach. For more information, visit jfkassociates.com.