Being a grandparent is like feeling as if you're going to burst with happiness all the time. My 2-year-old granddaughter, Kayla, is the joy of my life. I'm wrapped around her little finger. (We were recently blessed with another granddaughter, and it's only a matter of time before she, too, melts my heart.)
See also: 10 things I love about being a grandma.
I had heard about grandparenting. My friends bragged about the luxury of enjoying their grandkids for hours on end, and then handing the little ones back to their parents for the feeding, diaper changes, and disciplining.
But when I'm with Kayla, I don't ever want to give her back to my daughter! I just want to hold on to her all day and night. My time with her gives me a new purpose, drive, and energy. It's like becoming a dad all over again.
I believe in the notion that a good man provides for his children's children. So I have a new ambition now to make certain that I'm providing not only for my daughter, but also for the grandchildren.
One other way I differ from some of my friends is that I will correct my granddaughter about certain things. Of course I do it with love, and I do it because I know it helps my daughter and son-in-law. But there's something more: Helping in that way gives me a chance to improve on some of the things that maybe I didn't do as well as I would have liked as a father.
For example, you can teach kids very early on about little things, like the importance of sharing, or that pitching a fit isn't going to get them what they want. You're not being mean just telling the grandkids, 'No, you can't have it right now,' or, 'It's time to go to bed.' Those are some of the little things I could have done better as a dad.
As I watch my daughter interact with her children, I have to consciously remind myself to take a back seat. Usually she's doing the right thing. Although like most grandparents, sometimes I say, "Isn't it interesting? You're trying to teach her something that you fought me tooth and nail about when I tried to teach you!"
But it's important to remember that my daughter and son-in-law have their own rules in their house, and I have to respect their way of raising their kids. It can be hard when they're doing something differently than I would have. I can be there for support if they ask, but it's not my role to intervene.
That said, I do hope I get the chance to impart two important life lessons on my grandkids: One is simply, "Love!," and the other is the concept of teamwork.
Children are more confident, stable, social, and happy when they grow up surrounded by love—love for them and love among all others in the home.
If we teach children to love, the planet becomes a better place for everyone. Those children will have higher self-esteem, and thus they will feel secure enough to make others feel good about themselves, too. There's an old saying that children can be cruel, but I find that children can be amazingly kind, sweet, and generous, too. That starts in the home.
Making others feel good adds joy and quality to [kids'] lives, and it contributes to the good of the whole. Of course, those nice kids might get hurt sometimes, because others won't reciprocate the kindness, but that's OK. There are more successes then failures in that regard. And it sets a pattern for the children that will give their lives a lot more meaning down the road.
This goes hand-in-hand with teamwork, the ability to relate to people from all walks of life. People become who they are through a variety of factors—upbringing, education, socio-economic status, early experiences with other children, and so on. If I can teach my granddaughters to understand where people are coming from and to try to interact with them regardless of how different they may seem, I will consider myself a successful grandfather! And my granddaughters will find that what they give comes back to them, in friendships, in their careers, in how they will raise their own kids.
Now, I'm not naïve. We always want to protect our children and grandchildren, not send them out to hug every stranger who walks by. And, yes, there are times when we'll tell them to avoid certain people or types of people. But we can still equip them with a sense of the world and an appreciation for the circumstances that make others different from them.
We might think that world's never been more daunting or dangerous. And maybe that's true. But, remember, that's exactly what our parents and grandparents thought when we were kids.
So we can and should teach our grandchildren how to recognize and avoid danger, but I think that's secondary to teaching them how to love and play nice with others. And we do that by loving them and playing with them—every minute we can.