Being a father means that someday you will potentially become a grandfather. I asked my dad to give some of his thoughts on what it was like to become a grandfather. He very graciously gave some of his time to provide me with these wonderful, thoughtful, and sweet answers.
Read his thoughts on being a grandfather below.
Before I was a father, I was anxious about whether my child would be healthy and whole. Another big concern I had was if I would be a good Dad. I knew I was going to make mistakes, but I didn’t want to make so many that my child would be scarred for life. To deal with this concern, I resolved to apologize to my daughter for failing her no matter the cost to my pride and no matter how old she was at the time.
From an early age, even before she could remember, I apologized to my daughter. It was important to me to model behavior that showed respect for her person because that was something that was missing from my own childhood. I suppose I wanted to be able to guide her as best as I could, and when I made a mistake, I would admit to it so that she knew she could trust me.
Another important rule for me was to be truthful. I determined to not lie to my children, no matter what. It was disgraceful to hear parents lie to their kids. So I saw fatherhood as a huge responsibility but also one of great joy.
For me, fatherhood has been both one of the most rewarding joys as well of the most heartbreaking in my life. Heartbreaking not because my child failed me, but looking back with 60+ years of maturity, I see where I could have done better. Unfortunately, a rewind button doesn’t exist because I wish we could replay all the fun times and get better guidance to watch out for in the pitfalls of life.
I think I had more fun playing with my daughter as she was growing up because I got to watch her discover new things as the world opened up to her!
Some of my favorite experiences ranged from having tea with her while talking about Ms. Bissy (an imaginary character she created) to feeding fish with our feet in the water so they could nibble our toes. I loved making her laugh so hard she would have a coughing fit and her Mom would yell at me for it. She got me back because I got so terrified when teaching her to drive that I would plead, quietly, “get over, get OVER, GET OVER!” as she inched closer to the shoulder. She would laugh at me in those moments and be proud of the extra gray hairs she added to my head on those days.
I enjoyed sharing my twisted, quirky sense of humor with her and her to encouraging her to laugh but she turned it against me on countless occasions. She bought herself an Xbox and asked me to play co-op in Halo. Not knowing the game, controls, concept, etc., I couldn’t understand why I kept dying. There weren’t any enemies visible. No rifle fire, no grenade, nobody around…and yet I was dying – blood on the screen. My daughter, who was playing the game behind me, kept beating me to death! My wife finally said, “It’s your daughter doing it!” I turned around and she busted out laughing. Score one for the kid!
I have regrets, but through the great joy of having her and entering her world through play, I’m grateful for the privilege to be a part of her life.
The Perception of Being a Grandfather
While I always appreciated my time with my daughter, as I have gotten older I can appreciate how precious and fleeting time is even more. The term grandfather implies that time for me is short. As a grandfather, I want to enjoy engaging my grandchild in play and talk and discovering as I did with my daughter, but with fewer mistakes. In essence, as an older person, I am more aware of who I am, what I feel, and what I believe.
I want to leverage my life experience in the hopes that my grandchild would be spared some of the difficulties my child experienced. I am just as sensitive to his pain now and when he cries or gets hurt, I too hurt. My sensitivity isn’t new: when I was 26, my wife mentioned that “before you know it, that 2-week old little girl is going to be marching down the aisle and getting married!” to which I immediately burst out in tears.
I didn’t have the privilege to know either of my grandfathers, I was only a toddler when I met one so I was too young to remember. But I saw others with grandparents that I admired. When I was 12 or so, a friend had a “Pa” and “Nanny.” Both were sweet and were always the same; they didn’t put on airs, were plain spoken, and kind. Pa was about 6’ 6”, sinewy and skinny but strong. When Pa spoke softly and looked at me he made me feel as if I was important enough to listen to! I wished I could have him for my own Pa and I told my friend so but he didn’t seem to appreciate what he had at the time.
Pa modeled “grandpa” for me and I wanted to not just have him as a grandparent but wanted to be like him too. I wanted to teach my grandkids to laugh, have fun, learn, be loved and feel respected. To me, it’s because the outside world doesn’t provide those things so I was responsible for providing it. Pa died many decades ago, but he still lives in my heart. At times I can still imagine his tall frame and deep-set eyes while appreciating his hushed tones as he spoke to us boys.
I just wanted to model the same sacrificial love to my grandchildren that would always be remembered after I’ve passed too.
Adding a New Title
I hoped that my daughter and son-in-law would eventually have children. My happiest moment was seeing my daughter born, I literally was swollen with pride and I wanted that for them too. When I found out that my daughter was going to have a baby I was shocked and unable to quickly process the news. I was overwhelmed.
When I got home and went to bed, I lay in bed and began praying for her safety and the safety of the baby. I worried. Then I worried more because of the Zika virus (MS//Mommy Note: I was pregnant at the same time the Zika scare was at its height in the United States). Worry fueled by quiet terror for both of them. I just wanted them to be safe and healthy and whole. When my daughter delivered my grandson safely and both were okay, I voiced a prayer of thanksgiving.
Before he was born, one thing I looked forward to the most was playing with him! A lot of playing and chasing and building stuff and tearing stuff down. Making silly noises with funny voices that stuffed animals yell across the room! I look forward to climbing trees, building sandcastles, watching birds, identifying cars, and teaching skills that seem to be dying out. Inventing stories about things that we imagine. Looking at clouds and the shapes, seeing rainbows, and identifying stars in the night sky. Watching bugs, feeding fish, hiking, and the list goes on…
The Waiting Game
While I didn’t read any books on grandparenting, I’ve made it a habit to people watch. Not just in passing but in observation; a study of sorts. I figured out what I liked and disliked, what is a behavior to model and what could be hurtful to a child. I tried to be balanced and unbiased in life and to treat those around me better than I expected to be treated.
I was always worried about my daughter’s safety while she carried my grandchild because, after all, she is my child too.
The worst times of worry was lying in bed. But there were other times too such as driving to work, being at work, lunchtime, talking to Mom, etc. I also enjoyed watching the weekly pregnancy pictures being taken in front of the updated chalkboard announcing the baby’s age and size. I liked helping my son-in-law prepare the baby’s room with new windows, paint, floor, etc. because it allowed me to bond with him too.
When it came time for my daughter to deliver, it was hard to concentrate because I had to be there for others and couldn’t devote as much attention to my worries and concerns. I wanted everything to go well and I was overwhelmed when we got the news that she was okay and the baby was healthy!
Meeting a Grandson
It was a blessing to meet my grandson for the first time! It was like holding your breath and finally letting air fill the lungs again. I was relieved. My daughter gave me an emotional high that is indescribable and while Jai brought me great joy it was not as intense as my own daughter being born. Nothing compares to that experience. Never has, most likely never will.
Looking at my grandson, the two things that surprised me was that he was kicking and flailing about like a cowboy on a bucking bronco and the other was his furrowed brow! He was so strong and had an unbelievable grip!
When he was born, I didn’t feel like a grandfather at the time, I knew it but hadn’t experienced it yet. I guess I was in position, parentage, but not in practice – yet!
When I saw how healthy he was as well as active, I knew that there were adventures to be had. As he grows, the relationship is deeper and the recognition from him is quicker. I am learning what he likes and what works and how to engage on his level so that our play time is fun for both of us. I like taking pictures because I know these moments and stages move so quickly…I want to capture it all.
The Best Parts of Being a Grandfather
My most favorite moment was hearing him laugh for the first time in his life while I was playing with him on his first Christmas. Christmas day laughter – what a gift to me! Now, as a toddler, it’s his ability to do more. Because now he can walk/run/hide/sneak attack stuffed animals, and just be more participatory. He does more so I learn more about what he likes to do. I can do more and he learns more about the world, himself, and me. It’s fun discovering stuff…
Hopes for my Grandchild
I really want to teach him to work with his hands. I see he already thinks of how things fit together and is fascinated by seeing action/reaction in objects. Because this is the basis of mechanics and that is some of my skill set, I hope to teach him how to put things together after taking them apart. I want to teach him method. Show him things in his mind’s eye. I would like to see him leverage his innate ability to learn while using it as a way to validate him and build self-esteem. And I would like him to appreciate the world around him. My dream for him is to be able to be a kid for as long as possible and to love himself because he feels loved.
For other Grandfathers
Respect the children regardless of their age. I would also say value the time you have while you can because it goes quickly. People left behind after you die are NOT going to care about how well you took care of your yard, garden, car, and workshop. What they will remember is how well you listened to them and how well you treated them.
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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography