I believe grumpy grandpas, that is, congenial grouches, are in abundance amongst us. I am one! Are you?
Do you live with hurt feelings because your adult children don’t visit you often enough? Maybe you haven’t always made them feel so welcome. Why is that? Possibly it is because their visit is usually accompanied by the grand children. Now here’s a subject for which I can offer an unending discourse. Damn all the mythology about how all we elders love being grandparents — even in my seventies I’m not sure I appreciate the title! To the contrary, for some absurd reason, women can’t wait to be called “grandma!” Somehow, with age, one is suppose to mellow and only think of others. I’m not bourbon – I have not mellowed with age. I count the days remaining and selfishly want to make the most of them. I don’t want a “rocking chair” – I want to “rock and roll.”
When my adult children visit – I look forward to interesting discussions on a wide range of subjects. The latter is not possible with little one’s noise and energy filling the house, especially since they demand to be the focus of attention. Of course they’ve been taught to be polite, and recite, “Excuse me,” when they interrupt – but they still interrupt! And, if you don’t have a dozen Videos for them to watch, they lovingly scream, “there’s nothing to do!” After all, “I think” has been replaced by “I Pod .”
There is nothing more heartwarming than to have a grandchild announce: “Love ya’ grandpa,” ON THE TELEPHONE. But an afternoon with a couple of kids less than eight years of age exhausts me for a week. You tell me — what the devil does one talk about for a whole afternoon with a three-year-old?
I’m sorry, family or friends, my joy is in exciting conversation, not sitting around watching how adorable a 2 1/2 year old can be. When grandchildren become old enough to maintain one’s interest for more than a half hour, they have no desire to be with us. I think one has a child who is in need of counseling if they’d rather spend an afternoon with two septuagenarians than with their friends or personal activities. It takes about 10 minutes to ask: “Tell me about school.” “Tell me about sports.” “Tell me about sex.”
Reflecting on the stereotype of grand parenting that is portrayed before us – I consider myself an abysmal failure. My children love their offspring deeply – as they should. I am made to feel ashamed because I don’t have adequate depth feelings for them – though that could be related to how infrequently they visit. I’m confused about this built-in-love which one is suppose to feel based on genetic connections. What kind of ego demand is involved when one is to love their grandchild more than a neighbor child (who one might see frequently), even though the neighbor child is a far superior and loveable being? This reaction of mine offends society, and obviously hurts my children deeply.
But I apparently don’t behave properly when I do try to relate to them. Damn if they don’t seem over-indulged. If I speak too gruffly I am looked at with disdain. And never let them out of your sight or the horrors of this demonic society will destroy them. My reaction is always suppose to be; “how adorable.” And, to maintain a continuing relationship, grandparents should never be critical of the observed parenting practices.
As is evident –I am still searching for a means to feel “grand” about being a grandfather.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.