Hello everyone. This is my article from the July edition of Ponsonby News. It is particularly special to me as it’s really about the joy I have experienced as a grandfather spending time with my grandchildren.
Grandfathers hanging out with grandchildren
The recent birth of my beautiful granddaughter Milly was a joyous family occasion. I have experienced many magical moments in my life but the birth of a grandchild has to rank as the most magical of them all. Ok perhaps up there with my wedding day and the birth of my children!
And it got me thinking about the role of grandparents, particularly grandfathers, in helping to raise grandchildren.
I finished a three year stint as CEO of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust (GRG) last December. GRG is a charitable trust providing a range of support services to grandparents who find themselves having to raise their grandchildren on a full-time basis because their parents are unable to. It was a very fulfilling role and it gave me a very helpful insight into the huge challenges faced by these grandparents.
But there is a larger group of grandparents who while not raising their grandchildren on a full-time basis are spending a fair chunk of their time looking after grandchildren and this trend will only continue. We are the “baby boomer” generation and for those who can’t quite remember the definition, baby boomers are defined as having been born between 1946 and 1964. So if you were born in 1964 you are now 51! And yes you’re a baby boomer!
Of course grandparents have always played a part in looking after their grandchildren. My parents were wonderfully helpful when it came to grandchild care.
Our children are mostly Generation Y and for many families both parents are in full-time paid work. That’s the big difference between the generations. For us baby boomers it was more likely that the mother was in unpaid employment at home. You’ll note I’ve been careful to not say that mothers didn’t work!
So what’s my point?
Well, while acknowledging the awesome job done by grandmothers in caring for grandchildren, I want to address the role of grandfathers spending time with their grandchildren.
I had the good fortune to be able to look after my grandson Oli on a part-time basis from when he was 2 ½ until he went to school. I can tell you that it was one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable periods of my life.
I would pick him up from daycare on Tuesday afternoon and then we would have all day Wednesday hanging out together. We settled into a Wednesday routine. We hit Gymkids at Ponsonby’s Leys Institute mid-morning for a 45 minute workout! It was a fabulous experience for us both. He loved playing with the other kids and learning a range of gymnastic skills. It was a joy to watch him conquer the various balance, climbing and tumbling challenges. I was the only grandfather there, well actually the only male there!
During that time a research study undertaken by University of Adelaide researchers, who interviewed over 100 baby boomers about being a grandparent, was published. One key message was how grandfathers often felt uneasy with their grandchildren in public. They reported that perceptions of grandfathers needed to change, as more men in their 50s and 60s retire and spend more time with their grandchildren.
Further the report suggested that grandfathers were quite sensitive with the child protection issue, that they felt like they couldn’t hang around the playground on outings and that they felt excluded from things like playgroups.
Well TV One Breakfast got onto this story and I was invited to appear on the show in my capacity as both CEO of GRG and a grandfather involved in the care of my grandson to discuss the issues raised. I certainly understood how some grandfathers might feel this way.
It’s interesting because I hadn’t really experienced those sort of issues. But there’s no doubt that it could be an issue.
I think it does depend a little bit on how comfortable you are in your relationship with your grandchild. I had been fortunate in that I saw Oli 2 to 3 days every week so it had become an easy relationship.
So back to Gymkids where I was the only male let alone grandfather in a group of 12 or so care givers. The mothers were friendly but I didn’t push things – just acted naturally.
It never occurred to me that I might be excluded from Gymkids.
After Gymkids we would go to the library next door to do puzzles and get the next set of library books out, then to Dizengoff for morning tea, various food markets and then the playground.
Actually the hardest part about all this activity was having to get him in and out of the car 6 times an outing!!
So I urge all grandfathers to try and spend (more) time with their grandchildren on a one-on-one basis. It is a very rewarding experience and benefits both parties. Grandfathers can impart a very unique set of life skills to their grandchildren.
And here’s a few suggestions about how to form and develop that special relationship with your grandchildren – and one that they will never forget.
- Have regular outings where it’s just the two of you
- Develop a routine
- Participate – don’t stand back
- Look and act natural
- Smile and be non-threatening
- Engage but don’t push it
- Enjoy the moment, you don’t get them back
I promise you it will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do.
And don’t you just love living the good life in Ponsonby.