Why do parents suddenly want grandchildren?
When parents become grandparents
It is a strange feeling now - when your own children have finally fledged, since you have more time and a lot more plans - suddenly to belong to the “older generation”, the one who is next at risk of dying. That makes you think.
Even so, the fact that you now have grandchildren does not mean that you are old-fashioned, because you may be barely older than your neighbor who became a mother again at over forty - not to mention old fathers. You can be forty, sixty, or seventy, and that makes quite a difference.
There are many benefits to being a grandparent
I assume you love your grandchild or your grandchildren and want to hear as much of their development as possible. Everything starts all over again. Once again you see such a human child smile, stand up, stand, run for the first time. You watch how it learns to speak, does the first stupid things, gets the first bumps and scratches.
But that's the nice thing: you are no longer responsible for everything and everything that this child needs. You no longer have to worry about the nights because of him, and if his spirit of enterprise pulls too much on your nerves, you can return it to your parents and relax.
You don't have to anymore, you may! You can see from a distance everything that the young parents are now doing with a lot of commitment and effort. Bruised nose, bump on forehead? You have had it dozens of times and still grew up - it grows together. Thirteen months old and still not running? Take it easy, that's still to come. Problems with the optimal diet? Give her what she's hungry for; if she is hungry, she will eat.
In terms of development, upbringing, and nutrition, you must have seen some doctrines emerge and disappear. And hardly any of the catastrophes that have been predicted if you don't stick to them has actually occurred. Probably the most important thing that grandparents can learn from parents is that "there are many roads to Rome", that there are almost always different ways to keep children healthy and happy. You no longer have to participate in the desperate effort to find the one and only right path.
You don't have to feel responsible for everything anymore. The main lines of upbringing are determined by the parents, not the grandparents. But there are a lot of niches in which you can do what you think is best or most enjoyable when dealing with your grandchildren, without constantly wondering what will become of it later. Brought the child to bed too late, went for a walk through the dark streets in the late evening against all senses? I know parents don't like that, but children love grandparents who sometimes work with what is not possible at home. And from tomorrow, order can be restored.
Grandchildren offer the opportunity to try again and in a different way what one does not find so good about raising one's own children in retrospect. Like many fathers, for example, they regret having devoted too little time to their own children and not having cared enough for their development, games and thoughts. In dealing with the grandchildren, they can show that they have learned from it.
Having grandchildren keeps you young. If you had been climbing around on a jungle gym when you were fifty-five, would you have learned to walk through mazes on the computer or to save lemmings, would you know the difference between hip-hop and techno music if you had no grandchildren? Dealing with children requires staying mentally and physically flexible, always learning something new, absorbing it and dealing with it. Helping grandchildren with their homework or debating the point of teaching English is at least as good as taking a senior adult memory training course. And you get it all for free!
How you deal with your role as grandparents is up to you
A few generations ago, the general expectations of grandparents - especially grandmothers - were very clear: Grandmothers were old. “At that age” some things were simply no longer appropriate - permed hair, bright clothes in bright colors, lying in a bikini on the beach or dancing in public. One had to conclude with the loud joys of existence, to become more inconspicuous, quieter and wiser. The grandmother of many children's books has snow-white hair and a bun, wears an apron and wide skirts in which grandchildren can hide. She is responsible for preparing special delicacies, for reassurance and telling fairy tales. These grandmothers still exist today. But not everyone who has a grandchild can or may correspond to this picture.
To be a grandma or grandpa no longer requires a certain behavior. Each and every one of us continues to arrange life in such a way as they deem it worth striving for. One of them may have plunged into her job with full energy in the last few years, which were a little quieter at home. Others are finally planning the long trips that have always been postponed as long as the children go with them. Or they spend a lot of time in this club and with that initiative. In any case, it is not your intention to constantly look after grandchildren so that the young people can move around more easily. They don't have to either. You have fulfilled your duties as parents. Now they can experience the whole thing from the second row.
Grandchildren appreciate that in their grandparents that they cannot have from their parents for various reasons: People who are no longer in such a hurry, who don't see everything so doggedly, who tend to let five go, sometimes go along with crazy stupidity and agree not to tell mom about it. And because basically everyone is very fond of everyone, the good understanding only suffers temporarily.
For their grandchildren, grandparents are living witnesses of a time that they otherwise only get to know from books or old films. The little everyday things that grandpa and grandma can tell bring history to life, they are remembered.
But this familiar relationship with children and grandchildren does not fall from the sky. It has to be worked out. Grandparents can also be know-it-alls who have no understanding, people who have to be visited so that they are not offended, who have little understanding for lively grandchildren and who love nothing more than their peace and order. If your reports from your own childhood are under the motto: “I should have allowed myself to do that with my father!”, You will hardly find listeners willing to listen.
What kind of grandma, what kind of grandpa would you like to be?
Based on my experience, based on the reports I have received over the years about the behavior of grandparents, I would like to put together a (not very serious) list of types for you. You can check whether you recognize yourself in one or the other type, whether you want to be like that - or would you rather be completely different.
The caring grandma believes that everything will go against the tree if she does not take matters into her own hands. She does not trust the young parents to run an orderly household and thinks that they will do everything wrong anyway. She wants to call the teacher about the unjust censorship and the landlord about the leaky windows. She gets travel brochures for Bavaria when parents and children prefer to go to the Baltic Sea, and rearranges the furniture when the young people leave them alone in the apartment.
The feeding grandma: Your most important concern is to provide the children and grandchildren with sufficient food and all kinds of delicacies. She pickles Polish cucumbers, bakes cookies, cooks applesauce and makes dumplings to freeze. When you visit her, the first thing she does not ask: "Have you finished wallpapering?" or "Did you find the key again?" rather: "Have you already eaten something?" And nothing, especially not a complete loss of appetite, can keep them from serving first.
The brisk grandma looks like mom's sister, regularly goes to the fitness center and beautician. She has just met a new friend at the dance tournament, but she keeps him at a distance because she doesn't think about tying herself so tightly again. She loves her grandchildren, but is not sad either when they leave after a few hours because she still has plans.
The warmth of the nose grandma: It's always very cozy with her. She is entirely there for the grandchild when it comes to her. She is convinced that everything it tells her is the absolute and not a one-sided truth. She believes she has to protect her grandchild from a whole world of ignoramuses and is unwaveringly partisan.
The knitting and darning grandma is always on the lookout for socks with holes, torn buttons and frayed legs. If you are not careful, she will mend the tears in the jeans that the grandchildren have artistically attached. She knits woolen hats that itch and wonderfully thick socks that make wearing slippers superfluous.
The curiosity grandma wants to know everything exactly, in order to explain everything, to be able to establish the right connections. She asks children and grandchildren holes in the stomach, and only gives peace of mind when you have given her the final secret. But she can't always keep it to herself, because she has to prove that she has other sources if she wants to find out what it really was like.
The resentful grandma Expects that you always think of what you have promised to bring with you or what you have promised to do, never forget grandpa's death anniversary, never appear in inappropriate clothes for family dinners. If a grandchild violates this, she considers it to be conclusive evidence of a lack of affection and respect. Also, your constant concern is what people think when the granddaughter does not come to visit every time with a different friend or for a long period of time.
The fire department grandma constantly complains about its indispensability, but is reliably on the spot as soon as it is needed. She cancels her rummy evening when the grandson has a fever, stays - albeit cursing (“What would you do without me!”) - overnight when the parents come home late.
The Emanzen grandma Allies herself with the daughter-in-law against son and husband, because she thinks women should stick together. She advises the daughter-in-law not to clear everything away for the son and to let him have the children in the evenings so that he can treat himself to something. She reads “Emma” and then gives it to her daughter-in-law. She buys her granddaughter leather pants so that she can climb trees better.
The model grandma is kind, quiet, selfless and considerate. She tries, with some success, to avoid all of the mistakes that allegedly wicked mothers-in-law make. She is constantly striving for justice and balance. She rarely gets too close to anyone, and when she does, she apologizes. She tries to comply with all wishes that are directed at her. Her favorite saying is: "I am satisfied when you are all doing well". But she completely forgot to think about herself for once. What she wishes for herself, what she would like to do or what she would like to get from others, she hardly knows anymore. Wasn't there something else ???
The game grandpa To the amazement of his wife, slides around on the floor with his grandchildren, is horse, steamer or bridge. He sings, bounces and wiggles his ears, and he doesn't really care what people think of him.
The grumpy grandpa thinks today's youth are too wild and generally poorly educated. He needs to be quiet, especially not to be disturbed reading the newspaper or watching TV. He says little, but can suddenly “jump out of your skin” terribly, for example if you run over his flower beds or use your tobacco pipe for the snowman. The grandchildren prefer to keep their distance from this grandpa.
The chaotic grandpa forgets to put an anorak on the child when he goes to the playground with him in the drizzling autumn weather. He feeds the one-year-old with pork knuckle and sauerkraut or climbs over the fence with the adolescent in the swimming pool to save the entrance fee. He has forgotten everything that used to apply to his own children. Or does he want to make up for something? The grandchildren tend to tell as little as possible about what they did with this grandfather at home.
The know-it-all grandpa is constantly fighting with his father about unnecessary spending on money, correct behavior in the office or incorrectly concluded contracts. Not only does he know everything - above all, he knows better. After talking to him, the parents are irritable and hiss at their children about every little thing.
The adventure grandpa has many ideas for things to do, but they almost always go wrong. If he goes to the zoo with his grandchildren, it must have been closed for months. If you take the train, Grandpa has picked the wrong connections or completely misjudged the times. But in the end he somehow manages to do everything and helps his grandchildren to do very exciting things.
The financing grandpa lives very frugally himself and considers his children to be irresponsible wasters. But he enjoys it when they have to ask him for money, which he then always shoots up with many reproaches about bad economics - although every time he gives the impression that this suggestion has finally brought him to begging.
The repair grandpa finds things everywhere that “urgently need to be done”. He quietly disappears from family coffee parties because everyone is chatting way too much for him. You can find him in the basement, where he is fixing a shelf or sorting tools. He collects boards, screws, washing machine and car parts and, satisfied, makes available what you would otherwise have to buy again.
Perhaps you are looking for a role that suits you from this panopticon. You may also find this in the descriptions for the opposite sex. It doesn't matter - you shouldn't see it that closely: Repair grandma and nose warmer grandpa - why not? It's best to mix a cocktail, a little of this, most of that - just as you, your children and grandchildren need!
Good grandparents don't have to be available for everything all the time
With all your affection, you can still say it out loud: Grandchildren also mean stress. When such a little explorer has dumped the sewing box for the third time, poured the juice on the table, bumped his nose while climbing the footstool and roared stone-softening for a long time, then you can be glad that he is going again now because he is in Bed, and that you don't have to rearrange the whole apartment again so that it can withstand his adventurous spirit without danger.
Do not expect yourself to do more with your grandchildren than you like to do and can handle. Your children might like to see you take care of the cot several times a month until 2 a.m. or stay overnight with them and only come home in the morning. But you are tired after 11 a.m., sleep poorly in someone else's bed, and don't like to leave your partner alone overnight. Then say that and refuse.
Sure, it is important that parents are allowed to do something without children, recover from parenthood and be lovers again. This also benefits the grandchildren through a more relaxed posture. But grandparents have the same right to insist that their needs be taken into account. If the young people can only go to a concert in the evening and not go to the pub afterwards, that's something.
If you constantly allow yourself to be “spread out” to support services that are actually too much for you, sooner or later this will break down into open or covert allegations, and that is poison for the peace of the family. Also, do not expect young people to notice what is too much for them and show consideration for it. As long as you say, albeit with an undertone full of renunciation: “Yes, yes, you can do it, I'll do it”, that is likely to be accepted. If selfishness is against it, it is easy to become hard of hearing in the ear. Only take on what does not cause resentment in you, no feeling of being unduly exploited!
It is an unfair method to first take over something and then make the parents feel guilty afterwards - something like this: “The children could not sleep at all.They kept asking where you were staying for so long! " This creates anger in the parents. Anger instead of gratitude. Do you want that?
Tell kids and grandchildren klar what you don't like or can no longer do. If you regularly go to sport on Monday evenings, babysitting services are not possible on Monday. And even the two-year-old will get used to the fact that you cannot carry him around, otherwise your back will hurt. Talk clearly about what is expected and what should be accepted. Do not use guesswork as a guide for your actions. You may visit your children and grandchildren several times a week and do half the housework there, even though it is actually too much for you. You do this because you have the impression that the young family cannot get along without your help. But your daughter-in-law may feel controlled and patronized and would rather be a bit more chaotic, but self-determined. Sooner or later this must lead to snappy remarks, insults and arguments. So it is better to clarify it in good time.
You determine what grandchildren should and should not be allowed in your apartment
When your children were small, you must have set up the whole apartment in such a way that the children could move about as freely and safely as possible. Everything that is fragile and dangerous high up, no lacquer furniture and sensitive carpets, and you have got used to fingerprints and graffiti on walls and doors. But later you enjoyed making everything a bit more presentable again - this and that beautiful piece, cabinet doors without locks, light-colored wallpaper. And now everything all over again? Endure sticky furniture and fingerprints on the wallpaper without complaint? Is that the price of being loved as a grandma? You decide!
If you piss off every crumbled biscuit, overturned glass and start cleaning up, your kids and grandchildren won't be coming often. Do you want that? Then do it like this. If you don't want it, find a compromise that everyone can live with. Put the delicate knickknacks high up so that you don't have to be careful and scold all the time. Tie up the sewing box so that nobody can be injured with scissors and pins. And your grandchildren will accept that you are not allowed to build caves with the loose sofa cushions - especially if you suggest hanging a blanket over the coffee table and playing a cave under it.
There is little point in blaming your children for failing to encourage their grandchildren to behave “decently” or if you grudgingly tolerate and resent them. You decide what should and should not apply in your apartment - as politely and decisively as possible - yourself. The standards can be very different, and it has nothing to do with decency. With an otherwise enterprising grandpa, an otherwise beloved grandma, children can endure one or two quirks.
Grandchildren as permanent guests
If your grandchildren are not just occasional visitors, but regular guests in your apartment, everything looks a little different. Hats off to you if you have decided to do most or all of the raising of your grandchild yourself. Perhaps you had no choice because the child cannot live with its parents. Then, although you are the grandparents, you now have the function of parents again and you will have to look for help in dealing with your grandchildren in parenting guides.
Of course, some things will be different than with “real” parents. Friends of the same age from the past may have little understanding of your new attachment and contact will decrease. In return, you will get more contact with younger people than with your peers - with young mothers in the playground, parents from kindergarten and school class. And sometimes you will feel a little strange. But even more than other grandparents, with all the effort, you can also enjoy the advantage of being in constant contact with new things again, of being immune to the freezing of your own, long-cherished habits.
Don't get a block on your leg
As long as grandparents are still professionally active and have busy schedules, there is probably no danger that they will overdo it with caring for their grandchildren. However, when they are “on retirement”, and perhaps even without a partner, many of them are only too happy - and more often than is good for them - to be involved in looking after their grandchildren. Personal contacts to friends of the same age, personal interests and activities are then easily neglected. The children and grandchildren become the only meaning in life, the only joy and variety.
But when the whole attitude to life depends on the further fate of the children and grandchildren, you are exposed to the disappointments - which cannot fail to exist - much more helplessly. It will be much easier for you to feel that the young people are ungrateful. They tried so hard for the children, gave up so much for their sake, and now this! Or you will be too clingy, want to participate in everything, to be included everywhere. And when that becomes too much for the children, they feel painfully pushed back.
The children and grandchildren should not become your only connection to the lives of the younger generation. Make sure that you continue to have contact with friends, take on tasks in the club or in the church, do sports, play skat - just do things that keep you alive, give you the security of being actively involved in life.
Haven't you wanted to learn a little Spanish or take a computer course for a long time, but never took the time? Do not let yourself be persuaded that an old head can no longer learn so well. What else you want to learn, you can learn that too. The fact that you now know exactly what you want, that you are more determined and more reliable than many young people, compensates for the somewhat slower pace of learning. There is no reason to voluntarily scrap yourself!
Especially when you are really despondent because everything seems to be problematic, because the young people behave self-important and ruthless - do something good for yourself, something that gives you a boost. Go somewhere you have wanted to go for a long time, set up a regulars' table, join an initiative to build a bypass.
If you are also otherwise active, you will not be so offended if the children prefer to go on vacation alone or renovate the living room without your help, if the grandchildren prefer to go to the tent camp on vacation rather than come to you. You will find it much easier to let go of your children and grandchildren when you have other tasks, other interests to fill out.
Even if you try hard to be understanding grandparents, the constant affection and affection of your grandchildren is not guaranteed. It cannot be claimed. There will always be phases in which the grandchildren would rather do stupid things with other children than go on excursions with grandma or grandpa, or even sit on the sofa with them at home. Remember your own childhood. Wasn't it the same for you with your own grandparents at times?
Older people are often very strange to children, sometimes even a little scary. They don't really know how to deal with them - especially if they don't see them that often. From the children's perspective, grandparents talk too much about illnesses or other topics that children don't know what to do with. They run too slowly, have weird habits and attitudes, or have anything else about them that is bothering children of a certain age.
Expect such “dry spells” so that you are not too disappointed when something like this happens. And be patient: the less you ask, the friendlier you show your affection even without anything in return, the more certain the good relationship will be restored one day.
Helga Gürtler (2000): Children love grandparents, Munich: Kösel Verlag
Further contributions by the author can be found here in our family handbook
Helga Gürtler is a qualified psychologist. She writes books and magazine articles on educational topics, gives lectures, works with parent groups and in the training of educators.
Telephone: 030/833 67 10
Created on July 22nd, 2003, last changed on September 9th, 2013
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