On being a grandparent

By October 31, 2020Society

Back when I was a young lad, my paternal grandmother lived with my father’s sister and her husband because, my maternal grandmother had lived with us. Once a week, my father would drive my mother and me the 10 kilometres to visit them. We would have biscuits and tea, and maybe a cake, or even lunch, while we all talked for an hour or three. Several times over those years, I remember asking my father “do I have to go?”, because I could always think of something that I’d prefer to be doing. He simply replied “yes, you do”. There was no explanation, just that bald statement. Being a fairly obedient child, I then shut up and went.

Several years later, I had finished school and went to university to study geology and graduated in early 1977. After the graduation ceremony we drove out to my Aunt’s home where my grandmother still lived and I still have what I thought was a rather silly photograph of this little lady in her 80s, seated with a serene smile on her face, with a rather garishly attired grandson (it was the 1970s!) in academic gown and mortarboard, holding his enrolled testamur, and embarrassed to be still in this getup a couple of hours after graduating.

A decade later my partner and I started a family, and becoming parents is the most astoundingly emotional experience I could ever have imagined, and it is certainly the most rewarding. It is turning a couple of babies who you love unconditionally, into a couple of lads you not only love, but admire and respect. I often wonder how a couple of amateurs such as us could get this so right.

A few decades later our lads have found partners and have become parents themselves, and thus we have become grandparents. While this is just as emotional an experience as being a parent, a large part of the extraordinary responsibility is missing, in that our grandchildren are dependent not on us, but on our children. Like most parents with young children and full-time jobs, they are as busy as can be imagined, and we just sit in our empty nest waiting for the next photo or video to arrive on our phones, or for the weekly or fortnightly facetime phone-call. Fortunately, these do arrive regularly, but they are just minute snippets of life and are nothing like the real thing. Family visits are wonderful and we try to jam as many cuddles and other interactions into those times as we can. Not that I’d really know, but I suspect being a grandparent is like being addicted to narcotics, in that you cannot get enough of these little humans. Whatever you see of them, is never enough. It has taken me fifty years, but now I understand, completely, what my father was on about.


  • arthur says:

    you lucky lucky bastard

  • Dave Rudkin says:

    As relatively new grandparents we are experiencing the very same emotions – heightened, of course, by the inability to have close physical contact as the second COVID wave sweeps across our little corner of the world. Stay safe – keep well!

  • clive pegler says:

    As a bit of a tangent: Long have i lamented the loss of the extended family, (and community engagement), in favour of the urban nuclear clusterf**k. For a host of reasons but mainly due to kids predominantly being socialized by a narrow, limited set of models and not by the community at large. This exacerbates the issues experienced by the fledglings when they finally get to spread their lil wings and prior to that when the youth go through the inevitable rebellious phase. And similarly, often having to suddenly experience ‘chaotic thinking’ after having (often) been spoon fed that unconditional praise that lil darlings get smothered with. Sorry admin, this is for your rants, not mine. 😀

    • admin says:

      Not so. I always like to hear other perspectives. When I grew up, although most of the family was scattered through NSW, a few lived locally and we saw them regularly. In fact I occasionally holidayed with them rather than my parents, who ran a small business and sometimes couldn’t get away. Some of the aunts and uncles I’d see weekly, so it felt like being very much part of an extended family. That was not the case for my kids, which was because my partner and I are both only children. So our two children had no aunts and uncles. When I consider that I had 18 aunts and uncles it is a pretty stark difference. If I am not dribbling down my shirt at the time, I’ll attempt to give my grandchildren the benefit of my life experience, if I think they need it!

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