Grandparenting Today: Talkin’ About Our Generation

As a bonafide Baby Boomer, I like to think of myself as someone who, along with my contemporaries, is reinventing the art of grandparenting.

Oh sure, my cohorts and I will bake the Cookie Monster Oreos, read Dr. Seuss and celebrate the birthdays with trips to Yogurtland the way our ancient forefathers once did. But we won’t simply simmer the chicken soup and go quietly into the retirement community. How can we? We’re the generation that’s been uber-parenting since our own children were born and we began micromanaging every last facet of their lives. For us, “letting go” was never an option.

The truth is, we’ve never had to. The generation gap, so lionized in the past, has gone missing. Our kids rather like our music, and they tolerate our fashion sense. We laugh at (some of) the same jokes and gossip about (some of) the same celebrities. We listen to Ariana Grande together.

As parents, we’ve always enjoyed our seat at the table, so we feel entitled to stay there.

That means that you won’t find us, the grandparents, standing in the wings, waiting for our moment in the spotlight. You will find us biking and backpacking through cool places with our grandkids. You’ll find us schlepping them to libraries, to zoos and to performances of “Hamilton.” You’ll find us listening attentively at school parent nights (we like to be in the loop).

We’re not your grandparents’ grandparents.

We bask — no, we revel — in the reflected, rejuvenated grandparent glory of Goldie Hawn, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep. This, we know, is what grandparents look like today.

We like to keep on top of the latest trends in education, nutrition, and cognitive development. We may not know the latest, coolest app (it’s Tik Tok, that’s right, a video that plays in a non-stop loop) but we’re all on Facebook, which is why our grandkids, of course, are not.

It’s not unusual for us to transform spare bedrooms into well-stocked playrooms, where we carefully collect back-up supplies of LEGOs and all our old Barbie Doll clothes.

Make no mistake. Our lives are multifaceted and full, and take us from boardrooms to courtrooms, from classrooms to research labs, from book groups to fitness clubs. Still crazy after all these years, some of us — even now — imagine we can do it all.

What we’ve learned

We love our roles as grandparents, not (as everyone loves to say) because the kids can go back home to their parents, but because after you’ve been around the planet awhile, you’ve learned a thing or two.

There’s value in living through — and gleaning wisdom from — cultural pendulum swings and social transitions. Children benefit from multi-generational perspectives, from grandpa narratives, from hanging around someone with a penchant for golden oldies and an aversion to Snapchat. We have stories to tell and lessons to teach.

We’ve learned that pop icons — whether Elvis, The Grateful Dead, or Beyoncé — come and go, and so will a teenager’s infatuation with them.

We’ve learned that kids can become literate without toys that talk; that they can love music without Spotify; that they can watch a baseball game without live streaming it.

We’ve learned that even with Facetime, it’s true together time that matters and that our grandchildren love baking challah and making matzo ball soup with us for Shabbat. And we’ve learned that some things that we do from generation to generation are precious.

What do state-of-the-art grandparents want? We’d like to be involved in our grandkids’ lives. And we’d like the opportunity to establish lasting, meaningful relationships with them.

Sometimes, that means navigating rocky terrain: remarriages, stepchildren, in-laws who demand equal time. Other times, that means keeping quiet when we see newfangled child-rearing methods we can’t comprehend or when we are told the grandkids must eat lunch at 12:18 p.m. On the dot.

We know that access to our grandchildren may not be over the river and through the woods. It may be across the country and through airport security. And we know that getting there and becoming models and sources of strength for our grandchildren, is well worth the effort.

There are just a few people who will — without reserve and without apology — accept (and adore) a child, even when he’s cut from the team, even when he misses curfew, even when it looks doubtful he’s a candidate for Prestige U.

And there are fewer still who can help shape that child the way a grandparent can: with insight, with a vision born from experience and with unconditional love.

Linda Morgan is an award-winning writer, editor, and author whose work has appeared in dozens of regional and national publications. She is an on-air parenting expert for Seattle’s NBC affiliate, and contributing editor at Seattle magazine.

 

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