Being a grandparent is just that—grand. If you’re a grandparent yourself, you probably know exactly what I mean. I believe this is a role to be celebrated every chance we get.
I can remember what happened just a few days after our first grandchild was born. My son and his wife were visiting us with their new baby girl. It was my first exposure to the “happy chaos” that comes when such a small little creature was added to the family mix. The baby’s schedule pretty much ruled our entire household.
One morning we were all getting ready to head out and I was getting on everyone’s case: Why aren’t you ready? We have to leave! I can’t be late! Then, when I thought I had my son all ready to walk out the door, I couldn’t find my bride. “Where’s Melanie?!”
Then someone told me, “She’s … holding the baby.”
“Holding the baby? You mean … she’s awake?” Suddenly my priorities changed. Surely we could spare a few minutes. And in a flash I was right there at Melanie’s side, making googly eyes and talking to my granddaughter. She opened her eyes, looked at me, and gave a big smile. Maybe it was gas, but no, I’m going with another explanation: There’s a special bond—a magical connection—between a grandparent and grandchild.
And let me tell you, creating and nurturing that bond is a unique joy. You probably know this, too.
Several years later, my daughter was visiting from out-of-state with her husband and her baby boy, my grandson John-John. It was Sunday morning, and everyone was getting ready for church. I was up early and was already dressed. And if I do say so, I was looking good—the tie was working, the colors were coordinated, the pants and shoes were just right.
John-John was dressed too, but he hadn’t eaten yet, so they asked me to feed him breakfast. “No problem,” I said. “We’ll have fun.” And we did. They put him in his high chair, strapped his bib on, and turned me loose with the applesauce and that baby-sized spoon. John-John just sat there grinning at Granddad.
Before my bride Melanie left the room to finish getting ready, she gave me one piece of advice: “Sweetheart, maybe you should take off your suit coat while you’re feeding him.”
I said, “Oh, no, Babe, we’re okay. He’s got it down—look!” I showed her how good I was at spooning the applesauce into his mouth. But only a minute later John-John gave me another big grin with applesauce in his mouth and then blew a big raspberry and sprayed applesauce all over my face as well as my suit and tie. (I probably should have listened to my bride.)
I can just imagine how I might have reacted years ago in a similar situation as a young father. But on this day I didn’t let the mess spoil the moment. I leaned in real close to that boy and I told him, “You’re Carey Casey’s grandson. You can spit all over me.”
That’s my attitude. Honestly, sometimes grandkids aren’t convenient or easy. But I try to roll with it.
One more example: We have nine grandkids now, and occasionally Melanie and I get a chance to keep track of all of them at the same time, with none of their parents around. It’s really more work for Melanie than for me, but we both love it. She says it’s like “Camp Casey”—moving them around from activity to activity, cafeteria to recreation to quiet time, and then start all over again.
There was one day I came home from work to this wonderful chaos. First I walked into the kitchen, and two grandkids were in there eating. They looked up at me with those big eyes, and I gave each one of them a hug and a kiss—while trying not to get messy myself. In the living room, two more were sitting together in my recliner, watching a kids’ TV show. So I gave them high fives and they took their eyes off the program long enough to give me a smile.
So I thought, Alright, I’ll go put on my gym shorts and be camp coach. But Melanie stopped me. “You can’t go back there; we have one sleeping on the bed.”
So, in case you’re keeping score: the man of the house comes home, but he can’t sit in the kitchen because there’s a booster seat fastened to his chair; his recliner is filled with two other little ones; and the bedroom is off limits for another little napper.
But it’s all good! These are opportunities we don’t get every day, and just like with our own children, they’ll grow up and change faster than we realize. I’m trying to make the best of every opportunity I have with them, so I don’t mind so much when all the grandkids come for Christmas and wreck the house, with Tupperware scattered all over the kitchen. After they go home, I know I’ll have time to rest up for the next time.
There is wonderful fascination in connecting with your own flesh-and-blood descendants. They’re motivating and energizing! They bring out a side of me I had almost forgotten. Their pictures are all over my phone and computer, and I brag on them every chance I get. I can already tell that they’re going to accomplish some great and unique things for this world.
If you’re a grandparent, you know exactly what I mean. That time with grandkids is special and rewarding. And what’s even better is that our job isn’t just about making googly eyes or keeping them safe when they’re in our houses. We have a unique role to play. We can impart values. We see the big picture. We offer an older and wiser perspective on the world. And like I experienced, we’re more likely to put other things on hold so we can soak up all the joy of investing in our loved ones.
I hope some of the examples that I shared here have brought to mind some similar experiences you have had with your grandkids. Savor them! They’re huge blessing in our lives; they are among God’s greatest gifts. (And when you get a chance, keep the grandkids for a weekend and give their parents a well-deserved break.)
Carey Casey is Ambassador for Fathers at the National Center for Fathering (NCF) and author of the book Championship Fathering (2009). Casey has a reputation as a dynamic communicator and as a compassionate ambassador, especially among men, fathers, and those in the sports community. Carey and his wife, Melanie, are parents of four children and have nine grandchildren. You can find out more about NCF and WATCH D.O.G.S., their one-of-a-kind, school-based father and grandfather involvement program, at fathers.com.