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How do grandparents want to be received?

It’s likely that children will turn their parents into grandparents one day. Likely that their children’s grandparents will be eager to do their part to help their grandchildren get off to a good start. Eager to form a bond with their grandchildren that brings the love, role modeling, and support into their lives that only grandparents can bring: gentle loving kindness with patience, humor, and wisdom that only experience can bring.

How will the new grandparents want to be received by their grandchildren’s parents? With warmth and respect for their place in their children’s extended families. With awareness of the promise of grandparenting as well as its limitations. With patience and good humor while the grandparents adjust to family dynamics – personalities, psychologies, philosophies, relationships, conflicting motivations, and irrationalities that give each family its unique character. That make it either an incubator of creativity, an island of stability for children, a nuthouse, or a horror show.

The attention that children need

But, above all, the new grandparents will want to be received with sensitivity to their children’s response to grandparenting, so that the attention their children may want, the relationship that provides them with the love, role modeling and support they may welcome and need from their grandparents, can develop in peace. In an atmosphere of gentle loving kindness, uncomplicated by adult rivalry and friction. By distractions that interfere with learning and growth nurtured by innocence, trust, and playfulness.

How will the new grandparents want to be received? As three-dimensional human beings possessed of character and values, free will and judgment, that can be trusted to fit in without compromising their own integrity or the integrity of their grandchildren’s family. To respect and support parental roles and responsibilities while keeping them separate from their own. To enrich their grandchildren’s lives with all their gifts – unique perspectives, talents, independent judgment, and experience as well as time and attention – without imposition or expectation. To be heard when conditions obligate them to speak up, by responsible parents obligated to listen.

The opportunity to be there for family

How will the new grandparents want to be received? As sympathetic partners in shared purpose: the raising and nurturing of precious new lives. As friends who can be trusted to be and do whatever the situation calls for: to be there when the coast is clear or to respect distance when it isn’t. To move forward in harmony when minds and hearts are one or to pause to reflect when they aren’t. To promote understanding with honesty and integrity that works for the benefit of the grandchildren. And to stop transgressions that put grandchildren at risk.

Parents who receive the new grandparents as they want to be practice a wisdom and a gentle loving kindness of their own. They’re seeing the connection between the reception they give grandparents today and the reception their children and their spouses will give them another day. A contribution to their wellbeing that could make the difference between lives blessed with possibilities or drained of meaning. The possibility of experiencing the intimacy, playfulness, vulnerability, and trust that is the love of a grandchild. The opportunity to be there for precious human beings – for family. Parents who receive grandparents as they want to be are being kind to themselves as well as to others.

The parents who need correction

Parents who don’t do so aren’t seeing the connection. They fall victim to a lapse of thinking, of understanding. To the short-sightedness of immaturity characteristic of children who can only take in circumstances in the moment. Who lack a wider vision that takes in concerns and consequences beyond their immediate environment. Whose definition of what matters is limited to the here and now.

Parents jealous of authority that can’t tolerate the benign presence of a grandparent reveal a more profound incapacity: intolerance of other perspectives, critical feedback that doing their job depends on. Infantile self-absorption, a sure sign of arrested development. Obsessive fear of criticism invites criticism. Parents whose immaturity and irresponsibility deny grandparenting need educating, training, and discipline. They don’t need tact and diplomacy, superficial pleasantries that mask the reality that lies behind appearances. They need correction, the same as children who haven’t learned how to behave.

Because that’s what they are: grownup children who misbehave. The more recalcitrant they are, the more resistant to correction they are, the more they require it. With no-nonsense honesty, because the more they insist on protecting their “authority” the less protection they’re affording their children. Role modeling self-absorbed immaturity isn’t “parenting.” It’s the abdication of parenting.

Our values are what really matters – love and family; friendship and community; health and healing; freedom and free will; self-worth; purpose, learning, striving, growth and achievement; abundance; protection and trust; beauty, purity and innocence; empowerment and control. Whenever we’re in doubt, these are our conscience. These are our best guide to avoiding mistakes.

Grandparents know all about mistakes because they’ve seen and made lots of them. They know a lot about values, too, because experience has taught them what’s important. Kids might do fine without a grandparent. But it’s possible they’d do even better with one. Grandparents want kids to have this resource: helping them with values so they avoid mistakes.

This is how grandparents want to be there for their kids. They applaud kids' performances and cheer them from the sidelines. But when kids are ready for more, grandparents are ready for more.

Grandparents don’t tell kids what to do. Setting a good example, standing up for their values – that’s their job. If they follow the wrong example they won’t be role modeling their values. They won’t be role modeling the values they want their grandchildren to have.

What kids need from their grandparents is good role models.

Here are some thoughts about grand-parenting, relationships, and role modeling based on one grandparent's experience:

Respect and affection between friends can never be taken for granted, because that would be telling our friends their needs and feelings don’t matter. That they don’t matter. It would tell them that they’re worthless when friendships should tell them the opposite.

Differences between people can cause serious problems. Our reading and entertainment tell us that every day. Our minds work differently. Our personalities aren’t the same. We value different things. Our priorities are different. We present ourselves differently. We try to connect and communicate differently – the list goes on and on.

Our circumstances are always changing. And our needs and feelings change with them. Because everyone’s circumstances are different, no one has the same point of view.

Our physical, biological, and social environment is a dynamic system driven by powerful forces. Understanding these forces is the purpose of every field of learning -- physics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, social science, political science, ethics, theology, biology, and more. We are brought together in one great human enterprise: learning.

One of the great lessons of life is the need for continuous improvement -- for learning and personal growth. This is as true for groups as it is for individuals. It is our purpose. We can’t stand still. We must move forward.

Learning takes effort. It takes thought, and kids are capable of that. If grandparents didn’t believe in their kids they would say, “They’re just kids” and ignore them. Grandparents don’t ignore their kids. They think their kids are worth a whole lot more than just one birthday gift. They're worth a million birthday gifts! They're not “just kids.”

As Vince Lombardi would put it: What’s best for our kids isn’t everything: it’s the only thing. Being useful to their kids is why grandparents exist. A good grandparent will try to be useful even if it means doing without the affection, kindness, joy, and laughter that their kids bless them with. Their kids are worth a trillion birthday gifts!

Relationships usually survive misunderstandings and hurt feelings without too much damage. But when we don’t respect our differences it can have more serious consequences. It can cause wounds that take away trust and safety. It can even bring close friendships to an end.

In the end, there is only one way to save a friendship and that is to earn it. To have strong values, share them, and to stand up for them even if it takes work and may not succeed. What is friendship worth, anyway, if it doesn’t ask something of us? If we don’t risk something?

Living a truly good life and doing what’s right aren’t things to be casual about. They require thought and deliberation. They require care and concentration, because it can be very easy to lose sight of what really matters and make a mistake.

It’s up to each of us to determine for ourselves what’s right. It’s everyone’s duty to affirm the truth about who we are and what we believe in everything we do. It’s all about Character. It’s all about Purpose.

Modesty is being aware that a higher power knows what’s best and letting this awareness guide our conscience. Anyone can find fault with what’s wrong, but who really knows what’s right? This is modesty, a virtue that is everyone’s duty to share, and grandparents would share it with their kids.

Miracles happen when power that we’re not aware of works quietly through our minds and hearts to overcome barriers to change and lead us forward. The barriers to change necessary for friends to move forward may not come down without a miracle. This is as true for brothers and sisters as it is with fathers and sons.

“Happy endings” aren’t a given but neither is disappointment. What we think are “happy endings” may also lie beyond our understanding. We should be prepared for both, because whatever comes may be for the best – we don’t know.