My son’s wife is pregnant and I’m a little worried about becoming a grandfather. How will my new role change my life? How is being a grandfather different from being a father?
More than 90 percent of parents over sixty-five have grandchildren, and about half of those have at least one adult grandchild. What this means is that with life expectancies getting longer all the time, you’re going to be a grandfather for a long-maybe a very long-time. Most grandfathers love being able to add the title of "grandpa" to their list of identities. Here are some of the reasons why:
- It’s a second chance. You may not have had the chance, or the opportunity, or the desire to be as good a father as you would have liked, but grandfatherhood gives you a chance to look back and to try to "do it right" this time. It may also be more fun. "Since they do not have the responsibility for raising the child toward that unconscious goal, their love is not as burdened by doubts and anxieties as it was when their own children were young," writes Therese Benedek. "Relieved of the immediate stresses . . . and the responsibilities of fatherhood, grandparents appear to enjoy their grandchildren more than they enjoyed their own children."
- It links you to the past and the future. Your grandchildren are your assurance that your biological line will continue for at least one more generation. At the same time, becoming a grandfather may help you repair, deepen, or reestablish relationships with your children. "When your kids have kids of their own, you suddenly have an area of shared experience," my dad told me recently. "And that leads to tolerance and forgiveness on both sides."
- It makes you feel important. Your children are grown, everything seems to be taking care of itself okay, and it’s been a long time since anyone really needed you. But having a grandchild gives you the chance to teach, give advice, tell stories, be a financial and emotional resource, and contribute to their lives. As a result, you’ll feel valuable again. It’s that "second lease on life" you always hear people talk about.
- It may make you lighten up a little. Time is short at this stage of life, and it’s just not worth the energy to demand perfection from everyone-especially young children. It also gives you the chance to shamelessly spoil someone without being accused of being a bad father.
- It can be payback. Remember all those time when your kid told you how much he hated you and how he would never, never, ever be as horrible a parent as you were? Well, chances are that now that he’s a parent, your child has become a lot more sympathetic to the errors you made when you were the dad and he was the kid. As my own father often tells me, "It’s a great comfort to me that you’re not a perfect parent."
- It brings back the past. "Grandparents get to relive the memories of the early phase of their own parenthood in observing the growth and development of their grandchildren," writes Benedek. Grandparenthood may also bring back some memories of your relationship with your own grandparents.