Do grandparents really need six-pack abs?

My friends want to be just like me—a grandmother, that is. “I’m going to do that, too,” they say, when I tell them about my daily life with a three year-old and an eighteen-month old. They want to have the special snacks at the ready in their refrigerators; they, too, will give up the guest room for a playroom; they’re resigned to putting a fence around the pool; and the next time they landscape, they’ll make sure to leave room for a swing set.

My advice: forget the props and get in the best shape of your life.

Their grandparenting life will most probably not be like mine, since my husband and I are the primary caregivers. But I know my friends will be very involved in the lives of their grandchildren, especially in the pre-school years. Having a room full of toys won’t shape my friends into good grandparents—having the energy to pick up those toys ten times a day will. And designing a backyard that is the envy of the neighborhood won’t matter a bit if you can’t join the kids on the swing or swim in the pool.

The old-school grandparent was typified as a knitting or pipe-smoking dispenser of wisdom.
Wisdom is in short supply today so that’s still a job requirement. But grandparents need to be wise about a lot more than handling money and going to college.

The most active thing I ever saw my grandmother do was shop. She was my age when I was born and she was old. Today’s grandparents do a lot more than shop or bake or carpool. They’re living longer and recognize the importance of fitness. Grandparents don’t just take their grandkids to the park, they cycle with them there. Grandfathers coach five year-old soccer. Grandmothers don’t just rock a baby to sleep for a nap here and there, they keep the baby for a whole weekend and rock-n-roll with all the punches involved in a 72-hour slice of a baby’s life.

And for those grandparents like my husband and I, who don’t get to “give them back” after an occasional babysitting marathon, good health and fitness are top priority. Make sure to get your exercise in, even if it includes your grandchild. Like to walk? Push a stroller. Cycle? Install a baby bike seat. Prefer the gym? Take advantage of those with daycare.

Knitting and pipe-smoking will never go out of fashion, nor will the wisdom your grandchildren deserve from you. Be the example of how smart it is to stay in shape.

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