The other day I saw a newer SUV with the bumper sticker “Dog Grandma.” I was surprised that someone would announce their identity as the proud grandparent of a canine to the world.
Yet most people are passionate about something, and when it comes to grandchildren, even four-legged ones, this is a frequently discussed topic among boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and beyond.
Generation X (born 1965-1976) also comprises a significant segment of those who have raised children and are now becoming proud grandparents. For proof of bragging rights, take a few minutes and randomly scroll through your social media accounts to see the countless posts and photos about grandkids.
For instance, as soon as I opened Facebook the other day, the first post I saw was one of those too-cute-not-to-read stories written by my Facebook friend, Terry Pontius. Terry is a retired Ohio United Methodist pastor, who titled his post, “The joy of being a Grandpa.”
Here’s the story:
“Today our 5th Grader Grandsons, Jack and Luke, invited Grandpa and Grandma to their school lunch. I crammed my knees under the kid-high table and wedged onto the small, round seat. Halfway through lunch I commented to Luke, ‘What if I get stuck here? I’ll have to eat cafeteria food the rest of my life!’
“Luke smiled and replied, ‘They have really good pizza on Fridays!”’”
Terry’s experience gave me a good chuckle because as the late TV host, Art Linkletter, used to say, “Kids do say the darndest things.”
The truth is even though I am definitely in the grandparent age demographic, I don’t have any stories of my own to tell or photos to post because I’m not a grandmother. When I was a young mother, I assumed that someday I would be a grandma, but life doesn’t always turn out like we assume.
Most relatives and friends my age, former school classmates and older work acquaintances have entered this second stage of enjoying children that are the offspring of their own children. Their faces almost beam in an otherworldly sort of way when they affectionately share tales of their grandkids.
If you ask someone you meet if they have any grandchildren, be prepared for them to just happen to have a few, which will turn into a couple of dozen, photos on their cellphone. The love a grandparent displays for the young ones who are of their second-generation bloodline can be almost comical. Have you ever seen a big burly-looking older man gently holding the tiny hand of his grandchild? After all, a grandkid can reduce the gruffest male to a doting puddle of emotions.
Since I’m not a grandparent, there were a few years when I was envious of others who were. I had to emotionally work my way through that because as human beings we have to adjust to whatever life brings. Of course, I still could be some day, but truthfully I’ve come to realize there are a variety of distressing situations that grandparents can encounter.
First, some individuals, through no fault of their own, don’t have the opportunity to spend time with their grandchildren. Whether due to a broken family tie, geographical distance or another unfortunate scenario, a grandparent either has no relationship or a very limited one. I have listened to the lament and grief not seeing grandchildren can cause. There are even court proceedings revolving around grandparents’ rights.
Secondly, there are self-sacrificing folks who have custody of their grandchildren, and their ranks are growing due to our country’s opioid crisis. “Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth of those have incomes that fall below the poverty line, according to Census figures,” the PBS News Hour reported in an Feb. 16, 2016, article.
I admire these noble people who have given up their expectations for a peaceful empty nest or quiet retirement and have opened their hearts and homes to their displaced grandchildren. They are everywhere, and they are a reminder of what the word “family” truly means.
When it comes to grandparenting, it’s been enough for me to live vicariously through other folks’ grandchildren, especially on social media. I enjoy seeing your grandkids eat their first piece of birthday cake and to read the funny stories they come up. So grandparents, please keep posting!
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com