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On this occasion of my daughter’s birthday, I’d like to tell you that I have recently been informed that I will become a grandfather, God willing.

Scary and awesome and humbled and anticipating; it’s all the jumble of emotions and overload that both numbed and impelled me when I was informed we were expecting my daughter so many years ago.

What am I expecting now, that my daughter & her husband are expecting a child?

I’m expecting to be a Grandparent. In the words of Dr. Arthur Kornhaber:

Every time a child is born, a Grandparent is born too.

The problem with my new “birth” is that I did not grow up with any of my own Grandparents to model this for me. I have watched my children grow up with theirs, and their happy delight in the unique relationship they developed… but now it’s my turn.

Growing up… some more… to be a Grandparent

There are some excellent resources for those as novice as I am. I looked at “How to be a Better Grandparent:”

You can create deep, loving relationships with your grandchildren by sharing the things you love and by learning about what excites them. Whether you’re a full-time grandparent, a step-grandparent, or a long distance grandparent living thousands of miles away, you can find new ways to strengthen family ties and provide your grandchildren with joyful memories and valuable life lessons.

I looked at some “researched based” advice in “Characteristics of Effective Grand-parenting.”

Effective grandparents function in diverse, highly individualistic ways at different times in the grandchild’s life. These grandparents are consistently and reliably involved in their family’s life. Importantly, they are perceived as “being there” in mind, body and spirit.

An assessment of the qualities and attitudes of the grandparents of these families supplies information that we used to create a model of grandparents who feel that grandparenting is an important symbolic, interactive and instrumental function of their life. This model can be used to teach other grandparents to be more effective in their role of family elder.

But today I will share from Barbara Graham’s “7 Unbreakable Laws of Grandparents.”  She said that “on the one hand, it was so simple. There was a new baby… and there was nothing to do except love her… The other hand, belonging to her parents, held all the cards. I soon learned that I could love my granddaughter fiercely, but I had no say — in anything. She was mine, but not mine…”

Therefore, here are a few of her guidelines that have kept her out of hot water:

1. Seal your lips. Your advice and opinions will not be welcome, unless directly solicited. (Even then, it’s iffy as to whether the new parents really want to hear your answer.)

2. You may love thy grandchild as thine own — but never forget that he or she is not thine own.

3. Abide by the rules of the new parents. The dos and don’ts of childrearing change with every generation.

4. Accept your role. Try to think of yourself as a relief pitcher in a baseball game: You’re on the bench until your adult children call you up — and then you must do as they say if you want to stay in the game.

5. Don’t be surprised if old issues get triggered when your child has a child. For many people, feelings of competition with their grandchild’s other grandparents provoke traumatic flashbacks to junior high school.

6. Get a life. “I have my life, they have theirs.” We are close and connected, yet separate. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

7. Let go of all expectations. Once I was able to let go of my agenda — which took some doing — I found that I still felt deeply connected to [my grandchild]… Who knew that grandparenthood would offer so many new opportunities for personal growth?

Ultimately, the good news about becoming a grandparent, and not being in charge anymore, is that nothing is your fault, either.

Barbara Graham, a Grandparents.com columnist, is the editor of the anthology, Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother (Harper).

Becoming a Family Elder

What has tended to be lost in our fractured society is the notion of elders in the extended family and community. It was interesting to read Dr. Kornhaber’s rather clinical evaluation of “effective grand-parenting,” and to hear his desire to “teach grandparents to be more effective in their role of family elder.

This is a little of what I was getting at in “It’s taken this long to get this far.” It is the impetus to curating “Curriculum of the Spiritual Life:”

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of my role as a living elder today: “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life.” I am a life long and life wide learner, who seeks to:

*decipher the enigma of our worth
*rescue from the agony of prayerlessness
*integrate spiritual friendship

Becoming a Living Elder

What is your experience as a living elder, or with grandparents, or with mentors that have impacted your spiritual journey? How might you see yourself as a person who positively encourages and exhorts – to see yourself as a living elder in a society in need of your wisdom, experience, and stability?

Happy Birthday Kara! Soon to be happy birthday to my grandchild and me!

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