13 Aug 2020
I’ve come to the conclusion that to be an effective grandparent, there’s a few skills you need to master.
Firstly, and most importantly, you need to be available. It’s not really a skill, but I suppose the mental switch from “got things to do” to “absolutely I’m available” is probably the skill needed.
Secondly, you need to be skilled in overlooking a house that has toys spread from one room to the next. And beyond. Your skill is in not even bothering to pick anything up until your grandchild has gone back home. A superior level skill set is convincing others that can help in the putting away of toys….in the proper place.
Oh forget it – do it yourself.
Thirdly, and I can’t stress this enough, your ability to sweat the small stuff needs to be strong. I turned my back on my grandson for around ten seconds at the park today, and turned to find him half way across a bit of climbing equipment that was way beyond his age. I confess to having moved quite fast towards him but then just got ready to catch rather than removing him from that equipment. He then tested my cardiac health by doing the same climbing section another six times.
Grandparents need to be the suppliers of yummy food. Sure they need to be aware of the parents preferences for a nutritious intake for their offspring, but grandparents are the ones who can and will reward the eating of said nutritious food with something nice but not so nutritious. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.
Grandparents need resilience. You will need to be able to think you’re able to sit down and enjoy a well earned coffee while your beloved grandchild FINALLY has his afternoon nap, only to throw the coffee down the sink when said grandchild decides that he’s had more than enough shut eye, thanks very much. Cuddles win over coffee any day. Ok, most days. Some days, anyway.
Grandparents need to be able to listen. You should be able to respond to toddler babble with such phrases as “Uh huh”, “Really”, “Wow”, “Amazing”, “Gosh”. To achieve this you should imagine you are an adult male and your wife is talking at you. As long as you are maintaining eye contact and making noises that make her think you’re listening, you don’t actually have to pay attention. When the toddler gets to proper talking stage, grandparents need to be prepared for the questions. Obviously you can fake dementia if a question gets too hard, but be prepared to answer the “why?” question nonstop up to an hour or more. Please note that parents are the only ones allowed to answer “Why?” with “Because I said so”. Grandparents should answer with “Because your mum/dad said so”.
History – grandparents need to be the purveyors of family history for the grandchildren. Their parents will be too tired to relate to their kids the intricacies of your family tree. Be wary of grandchildren who will ignore stories of their fourth great grandfather who helped build a bridge, and will instead ask about your experiences on the ark.
So – those of you with more grand -parenting experience than me – what other skills are required?