The Changing Roles of the Grandparents

As a child my grandparents were always home when you came to visit. They did not have jobs outside the house,they did have a pantry filled with home canned foods, and the aroma of fresh baked cookies, and a garden that reaped the fruits of their tender care. They had time for you, they filled the little plastic swimming pool for you to play in, they held the hose pretending to water the flowers, but let you run through the spray. They read you stories and better yet, told you stories about themselves. They did not have to discipline you, you knew when you went to their house you had to be good, because they eluded goodness and love.

Today, Grand-parenting has taken on a whole new face. Many grandparents today have had to step into the role of second time around parenting. Divorces, deaths, children born out of wedlock, all just causes have been placed on their door step, and they have opened the door and their hearts to help. Some by choice, most by necessity. Grandparents, the sturdy pioneers of life, know when you are in need and they step up with out hesitation. They try not to judge, I know, I am a grandmother, of three, soon to be four off springs of my own.

When our children became adults and moved out and on with their lives, I was elated for them to begin their own journey in this world. I did not suffer the “empty nest” syndrome, my awe at what they were becoming, made me grateful that I had done my job as a mother well, and gave me a rush of adrenalin knowing I could sit back and watch, enjoy my new found freedom, and eventually be just a “Grammy”.

Oh yes, it was all going as planned, until, well until my son’s divorce. He served two stints in Iraq, and when he came home from the second one, his wife divorced him. They have two small children who are caught in the middle. I think both my son and his wife are good parents, but when the home life changes, there, too changes the lives of the children. After the divorce was settled and the courts decision of what my son would pay in support, day care, school fees, they only place he could afford to live was back at his childhood home.

Oh, he could have gotten a one bedroom apartment, and had his children in sleeping bags on the floor. But it just made sense he would move back, temporarily to the big old house of his youth. There are enough bedrooms to go around, this old place was built to have children filling the halls with laughter and sometimes tears, so all is well… well not exactly.

My husband and I have gone from being Grammy and Grandpa to being care givers all over again. The children are here every other weekend, spring and summer breaks, Christmas breaks. Again there is a full table at meals, there is always laundry waiting to be done. My son does the laundry for the three of them, it is just that I have lost the luxury of doing my laundry when I feel like it, just like I have lost the luxury of either fixing a meal or having left overs, CAUTION!, kids do not like leftovers, they like hamburgers, pizza,and pancakes on Sunday mornings.

My once neat and tidy home, now has airplanes sitting on the staircase, awaiting the next trip up to be taken to a designated landing strip, there are baby dolls in the bathroom sink, wet and dripping from their make shift swimming pool. Speaking of swimming pools, gone are the days that I could take a good book, and diet Pepsi and climb on to my raft and spend a wonderful warm summer day all by my self. Now I dodge super soaker water guns and cannon balls sending waves over the side of our pool.

I again, am forced to referee never ending sibling arguments, stop looking at me accusations, and give me the remote demands of these pint size bundles of never ending energy. The facade of being just a Grandma, went out the door when the first truck load of toys arrived. I would not wish this on any one, but I would not allow anyone to take my place.

I am in a position to help them through a difficult time, my son and his children. I can be the rock they need, or I can be the crabby old lady whose house they are living in. I choose to be the rock.
Having and adult child and his children move in with me was not part of the plan, but it is a solution to the problem for the time being. Soon my son will be able to move out and on with his life, he will have the finances to have a home of his own again, and then they will come to visit, eat, swim and make me smile, and when the day ends they will go home, to their own home.

Until then I will attend to my role as Grandma/care giver/referee,cook and housekeeper, and then I can go back to the role I was intended for, Grandma.