Poppa’s Moment by Phil Larson

As various businesses and other public places begin to reopen around us, many of us are eager to be physically reunited with our grandkids, and it seems everyone is a little tense.

Most grandparents are touch folks. We like our hugs and kisses. This is a great time to practice patience, but it sure ain’t easy. I’ve had about all the Facebook, Zoom, Duo, Echo Show, and Google Meet that I can stand, and yet, I’ll pick up my phone in an instant for five more minutes with a grandchild.

Finding the Mix

Reentry into the lives of our grandchildren is situational. We can’t force one set of kids to be the same as another. Each family has a different set of risk tolerances and levels of concern. Listen to your children and be the support they need. It isn’t over yet, and no one knows what the next three, six, twelve or 18 months will bring. For example …

One of my grandkids is a foster grandkid. At less than 2 years old, he calls for Poppa when he is stressed. He usually doesn’t say anything; he just wants to see my face and be reassured he is unconditionally loved. My daughter and her husband have taken care of him since he was one month old. The situation is a mess: one parent opted out, and the other keeps coming back, though the visits are more damaging than constructive. That little two-year-old’s mind and heart cannot make sense of everything happening, but I’m glad he has Poppa down as a personal protector and lover of his soul. His emotional safety is max important to me. Last Saturday, for the first time in our reentry, I got to hold him on my lap and read a book with him.

Another grandchild is recently adopted out of foster care. She was a foster granddaughter for two years before the adoption. She needs her Poppa. She dances on video chats, but needs touch security. My son is a nurse assigned to a COVID-19 ward, currently living in a hotel room. That little girl needs extra interaction and her mom needs help, so my wife and I are doing laundry and making visits. We have become part of their shelter group, and they have become part of ours.

Two of my grandkids live eight hours away. We’ve been meeting over video for years, but we always try to be there for birthdays. Missed one so far this year, and another is coming up. It is summertime, so the COVID risk Is low. But they live in a high-risk zone and are concerned, so it’s back to Zoom with these for a while.

Another of my grandkids has been almost totally isolated. His parents can work from home and have limited outside interaction—which has made it hard on us, but it’s their wisdom and their home, and we are here to support them and their family. Video calls are really hard with this grandchild because we’ve had lots of face-to-face time with him during his early years and are a close part of his life. Percentage wise, two months of his life are like six years of ours. Reentry with him was wild. He was full-on, non-stop energy once he had Granna and Poppa for a few hours. Again, we are part of their shelter group in the reentry phase.

Every Grandkid Matters

The other day, on a quick call from my granddaughter, she caught me in my home library/office. First she asked if I had a book to read to her, which I did, and we read it together over video. Then she asked if I would tell her a story about God. She’s three. She depends on her Poppa.

Every situation is different. Every home is different. Our culture has been permanently modified in some ways and temporarily in others. One thing we know: grandparents are important in the emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and relational development of their grandchildren. Be there in whatever way you can and be grateful for that way. Have a story ready to go in your heart and head. Pour out your support.

Read more from Phil here.

Phil Larson serves as the SW Director of Benefits and Conferences for Grandkids Matter and GrandparentBenefits.org. He and his wife, Dian, live in Oklahoma City and have four children of their own as well as many that call them mom and dad from the community. Three of those children are married, giving them a mix of six grandchildren of multi-racial background by both birth and adoption. You can contact him at 405.494.0637 or phil@grandparentbenefits.org.