A Welsh proverb says, “Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.” Many of us have experienced that. Unfortunately, things don’t always seem “perfect” for very long.
Every grandparenting story is unique and rich, and some are complex and challenging. There are grandparents raising grandchildren, long-distance grandparents, traditional grandparents, grandparents seeking access to their grandchildren after a divorce or family crisis, single grandparents, estranged grandparents, step-grandparents, surrogate grandparents and even spiritual grandparents.
Some of these situations bring real hardships to what should be a joy-filled role. We all know grandparents who are struggling through difficulties—or maybe we are those grandparents. There’s little benefit in speculating about what went wrong or whose fault it is; families are complex, we’re all vulnerable, and problems are seldom easy to explain. We shouldn’t make assumptions.
Ultimately, it isn’t about being perfect, because no child, grandparent or parent is. Instead, it’s about making the most of our opportunities and persevering through whatever adversities come our way.
So, if you’re in the middle of a huge difficulty—like raising your grandkids, or maybe you don’t get to see them at all—what follows are three brief suggestions. (And just because the descriptions are brief, that doesn’t mean any of these points are easy.)
Don’t get cynical. Your current situation might be really hard, but stay positive about being a grandparent in general. Find ways to be glad for grandparents who have it going well. Maybe feed off some of their joy and renew those feelings in yourself.
Get back to basics. Focus on the foundational truths that bring meaning to your life. If your faith is important to you, then cling to that and devote yourself fully to it. Whatever gives you peace or hope, it’s important that those things remain vital and meaningful in your life, despite any ups and downs with your children or grandchildren.
Maintain respect. We know we should respect other people—their desires, opinions and so on. But it’s easy to forget when grandchildren come along and we pour our hearts into loving them. Even in healthy relationships, people don’t always agree or get along, and that’s true with our children and grandchildren. There will be inconveniences, irritations and issues. For many grandparents, it’s a big step to lower our expectations. Maintaining common courtesy and respect will bring about the best results.
At the end of the day, there’s no better way to invest in the future than giving our very best for our grandchildren, even if the relationships and situations aren’t “perfect.”