A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Blessing of Grandchildren

By Anne Kerrigan

When my husband and I were dating, we would often take long walks around a local park, and fantasise about our future together. We had little money for much of anything else other than these lovely walks and endless conversations about our future life as a couple. Our dreams were a vital part of our hope for the future. 

Yet, in all those hours of envisioning our dreams and the joy of children, we never, ever considered the thought of grandchildren! Not once. We were very young when we were married, and I guess our imaginations just had not been developed enough to envision that far into the future. We could barely imagine being parents, never mind grandparents. Also, neither of us had grandparents as any significant part of our lives. My husband never even met his grandparents. Almost two thousand years ago, the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, stated, “How ridiculous and strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.” Yet, my husband and I were surprised, totally shocked, at the consummate joy of grandchildren. Now, when I even think about the happiness in our lives due to grandchildren, it just takes my breath away; feelings of love and gratitude flood my consciousness. It seems that I have transitioned from a worried mother to a gushing grandma.

When I look back to when my own children were young, I seem to have worried a lot. Why? I wanted to be the best possible mother and I wanted to be always correct. Was I doing the right thing here? What is the right thing? There were so many questions, and so few definitive answers. I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that being a parent involved so much indecision. I thought that being a parent would be all very clear cut; this was right and that was wrong. Tell them what to do, and they will do it. I never anticipated personality differences, personal opinions, and changing cultural norms. Whatever was I thinking? I also never anticipated the uncertainties of life. There were so many grey areas, so many situations not clearly defined, for them as well as for me. The 60’s and 70’s were certainly not as mellow as the 50’s of my youth. They were heady, chaotic times, and the constant worry for me as a parent was that I would not set the proper example during these tumultuous times. It was exhausting. Being a parent was a huge responsibility, and I wanted to make sure I did it as correctly as possible. Somehow, we muddled along. We were blessed with five wonderful children, and it was a future realized, although not without its obstacles and sadness. But, in the midst of all those years of parenting, we still never anticipated the joy of being a grandparent.

As I reflect on my own children’s experience of their grandparents, I realise that these relationships had been rather limited. When I had my children, my parents were living an hour away, and were very involved in raising the rest of their family. I am the oldest of seven, and my younger siblings still needed concerned and functioning parents. Due to the distance and the family obligations, there was little time for my parents to be active and involved grandparents. My husband’s parents also lived an hour away, without transportation. Additionally, both our fathers’ were still working full-time jobs when our own children were young. The situation was not conducive to being interactive grandparents on any regular level. This was a loss for everybody involved. When my mother-in-law came to live with us, she was in the throes of Alzheimer’s. Therefore, she was but a shadow of the person she had been, and she was really unable to establish or maintain any real relationship with those around her. So, my own children, for all the above mentioned reasons, had limited involvement with their own grandparents. 

 I wish they had the opportunity to more deeply feel the love their grandparents had for them, just as I wish their grandparents had the opportunity to be more a part of their lives. We were all the products of the times and the conditions.

May you…live to see your children’s children.

Psalm 128.

When our first grandchild arrived, my vision and view of the world changed. That darling, precious baby immediately took hold of my heart. Then, there were more! Joy and joy again. I realised that grandchildren presented an opportunity, a second chance. I now worry less, laugh more often, and marvel more. There seems to be a freedom with grandchildren which had not been present when my own children were young. The worry and concern has evolved into a softened approach. Now, I hug more often, and say “I love you” endlessly. I think there is an openness in the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren which offers opportunity for deep personal interaction. I even text now because of them! Imagine that? I have actually learned how to text so that I can stay more connected with them, and I love every minute of it. The movies shared add another dimension to this treasured relationship. Harry Potter and his cohorts have become treasured friends. 

Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.

A Welsh proverb.

Additionally, I see the stages of growth and development as witnessed in the baptisms, the graduations, the sports activities, and the birthdays as pure, unbridled fun. Now, as a grandparent, I realise that societal changes and family circumstances have allowed me to be more present to the grandparent role, and I am grateful. We are able to talk about college, plans, school, sports, coaching, and their future dreams. This is a marvellous gift, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be a ‘hands-on’ grandma. And, thanks to modern science, I now know that some of my own genetics will be passed down in some random manner, and I like that idea. Of course, I hope and pray that it will be all the prime genetic material and not the quirky ones!

An added bonus, from a very practical viewpoint, is that I am financially able to spend more money on grandchildren than I was ever able to spend on my own children. In those days of young parenthood, it seemed that we were always financially stretched to the max. It is now wonderful to have a few extra dollars in order to spoil the grandchildren. 

The crown of the aged is their children’s children.

Proverbs, 17.

 When I look at these amazing young people, I am filled with joy and wonder. I am excited at the thought of their future, with its unending potential. I recognise a strength in them that will enable them to navigate the journey which will unfold in front of them. The strength of their character will hopefully equip them to be prepared for the twists and turns of fate. In them, I see a glimpse of the future, of the generations to come, and I envision the world a better place because of their presence in it. I treasure each day with them because I now know that time is limited and moments are precious. I know this in a way I didn’t understand when I was young, when I thought that days were endless and forever. 

Many people are not blessed with the gift of years, and so I am thankful that I have lived long enough to know and love these wonderful, precious people. The thrill of being a grandma counteracts all the caveats of the ageing process! Thank you, God. I am humbly grateful.

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