By Dave Bernard
I look forward to becoming a grandparent. My recently married daughter and her husband are getting in some world travel over the next year before they plan to start a family. Friends who have gone before them universally recommend to “travel now – while you can…” My wife and I heartily support this wise use of their momentary independence. And we support their ultimate decision to start their family when they are ready. But that does not mean I am not ready now to be a grandpa!
Where some may dread the “G-word” as just further proof of their seemingly accelerated aging, I don’t fear it. On the contrary I believe the injection of life and energy from those half-height little ones will keep me feeling younger than my years.
Growing up, my dad’s mom was the only grandparent I had much exposure to. Dad’s father died when he was not yet a teenager and my mom’s parents lived in Germany. Even when I did on rare occasion see Opa and Oma, they did not speak English and my German was limited to yes, no and achtung. However memories of the grandma I did spend time with are vivid. I used to visit on weekends knowing full well the next 24 hours would be filled with uninterrupted spoiling. We would stay up late watching TV and eating pickles. She made me whatever I wanted to eat and took me to the nearby zoo to walk amongst the critters helping to instill at an early age a lifelong passion for nature. Grandma encouraged my piano playing and recreational reading (she was a high school teacher) both of which I appreciate more with each passing year. There was no such thing as too much ice cream and for those special weekends I truly felt like king of the castle.
I want to be a good grandpa. I want my grandkids to remember me fondly as I do my grandma. What is it that makes a good grandparent? What can I do to become a memorable Opa?
Keep them laughing
Humor has been a big part of my life. I have always enjoyed making others crack up and while in college was often compared to “Robin”, a reference to the one and only Robin Williams. Something warms me inside when I make a fellow human being laugh out loud. And who does not enjoy a good laugh? Grandchildren should be no different. It makes sense that a funny grandparent is more fun to be with. Someone who is willing to be sillier than their age is easier to relate to. Toward that end, I consider it my duty to introduce the next generation to the wit and wisdom that is the Three Stooges. Although their slapstick humor may not strike a particularly funny note with everyone, for our family it is a tradition (just like pickles).
Kids say and ask the darndest things. Their innocent curiosity is expressed without filter or guile. You can count on the little darlings to tell it like it is no matter how appropriate – or not – the situation. I think honesty should be encouraged from the earliest ages. Kids need to learn the importance of keeping their word. They need to understand that the trust of others is a result of their honesty and sincerity. As a good grandparent I will do my best to speak the truth and avoid what I call lies of convenience.
Set an example by doing not just saying
Although they are young I would venture grandchildren are perceptive in ways we would not believe. They seldom miss a beat. Kids learn from what they see adults doing and saying. Prejudice is a contagious virus easily spread. Constant shouting might be perceived as the norm. If kids witness their venerable grandparents fighting or speaking ill of others, what can we expect but them to emulate their elders? Spending time with grandparents can be special when children are encouraged and treated well. What a perfect opportunity to set an example, to plant the seed of good thoughts and deeds that grow as they mature.
Instill good habits
I remember an aunt who would not allow anyone to retire to the family room until all the dinner dishes were cleaned and put away. It was a pain but sure made the next morning easier with no dirty dishes stacked in the sink. I learned from these lessons and to this day follow the same rules in our house. My mom taught us to always write a little thank you note after receiving a gift no matter how insignificant. If someone was willing to take the time to buy us something we surely could take the time to say thank you. Dad taught me the value of getting your work done before you played. No escape to the park until homework was finished. I still get my work done first as a kind of prepayment for my relaxation. Many habits are picked up from what we witness in the behavior of those we hold nearest and dearest. If I can be a positive role model when engaging the grandkids, they might absorb some of the good habits I encourage and make them their own.
Have a positive attitude
Too often those of us getting up in years can let the burdens of the world wear down our otherwise positive outlook. Before we know it we spread our negativity to those around us. If instead we try to focus on all the good things in our life – for instance grandchildren – we may encourage a smile rather than a frown. Maybe our happy nature will infect others in a likewise manner. Then before you know it we are all just having a great time living and laughing and loving. That is the kind of atmosphere I hope to provide for those grandchildren when they come to visit. And I cannot wait to get started!
Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. Visit his website
He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement –Only the Beginning.
His other books include Are you Just Existing and Calling it a Life? and Navigating the Retirement Jungle.Candid feedback and thousands of comments from readers has given him a unique glimpse into the realities and challenges that all retirees will ultimately face, inspiring his book I Want To Retire! – Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be.
He recently published his first venture into fiction with Tales from Technology Gone Wild, a collection of four creepy short stories.
Dave was a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”).
He has been quoted in various articles and magazines including The Times of India, Prevention Magazine and Erickson Tribune.