By Dawn Sinclair
As all grandparents will testify, there are benefits to having appreciative grandchildren. By which I don’t mean they say thank you constantly for all you give them because let’s be honest there is a limit to how many times you can slip a kid a backhander without him expecting it as a right.
I know this for a fact because when we were kids, both my husband and I used to visit our respective grandparents in order to top-up the Saturday morning cinema funds. (It’s one of those quirky coincidences we’ve discovered in our backgrounds over the 42 years of our marriage). Had our grandparents not been forthcoming with the loot, we’d have had to find less comfortable ways to get in than through the front door of our local flea-pit and indeed both of us recall doing so on the odd occasion (never at the same time or we’d have met long before we did – 16 and 18 years respectively).
Grandparents are handy to have as a back-up to parents, it’s true, but when I said “appreciative” I was in fact referring more to their appreciation of our diverse talents than the money in our pockets. For some reason, and I speaking for myself here and not for everyone else, our own children are not in thrall of our talents in the same way the grandkids are.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that our talents have been learned gradually in front of them, while they were doing more important things like making height-notches on the door frame or easing wallpaper off the walls surreptitiously right under our noses. Never mind the fact that they were too busy honing their own skills and coercing their parents into appreciating the genius behind the excruciating noises they were making doing it to notice mum’s efforts at becoming the next Agatha Christie or dad’s frustrated attempts at drumming using empty boxes and a couple of spare bamboo twigs.
Indeed, our own offspring were probably mortified by our unending attempts to grow up quicker than their kids because we were hardly more than kids ourselves when they joined our household. So holding us in thrall was never part of their remit and to this day, they are less impressed with what we’ve achieved than our grandsons are.
Grandparents are supposed to be go-to guys in times of crisis. “Mum and Dad grounded me so can you explain to them I only did what they were doing at my age?” or “There aren’t that many years left for you to have the energy to watch me play soccer Granny and Granddad – and if you don’t come, I’ll have no one there cheering me on.” Or “All the other kids are going to France this year but Dad says we’ve got to cut back and stay with you two for the whole summer – I’ll try not to make your lives hell but you’ve got to understand folks, it’s not my fault I got hormones!”
We want to oblige, of course, but we mustn’t let down all the other grandparents out there. It’s our sworn duty to maintain the illusion that “We’ve done our fair share of raising kids and now we’re just going to have all the benefits without the responsibility”. Ha! What a get-out clause (thanks to all our predecessors). I am sure there are paragons amongst you who don’t ever use the expression “We love being grandparents because we can give them back when we are exhausted” but it is one tradition that I am happy to maintain.
There are definitely moments which make everything worthwhile – every favour granted, every slight taken, every joke at our expense easy to swallow and every “Yes” worth a million “No”s.
For instance, when a grandchild looks up with rounded eyes and says, “Wow, I didn’t know you’d even heard of rap Nanna” upon listening to a song I’d written being performed by a really cool dude 40 years my junior. Like for instance, when a grandchild tells his best friend in front of you, “This is my Nanna – the one I told you about who writes books.” Or like for instance, the day your grandson tells his granddad “I want to to be as good a drummer as you one day Granddad”.
I am sure all of you have instances you can quote like these but I sincerely hope every one of you grandparents can say that they recall the day one or more of their grandchildren said “I love coming to see you because are so cool Nanna and/or Poppa”.
Certainly happens to us all the time. Thanks Michael and James!
The Eternal Question
Children of Hamelin
Both available on Amazon.com (Kindle)