Children attending school receive report cards to demonstrate the progress they make in the areas of their education. The cards serve to provide their parents with benchmarks on how their children perform and in which areas they may excel because of heightened interest.
Parents—and grandparents—however, are not graded on their performance as caretakers of their children and surrogate educators. Parents are the first teachers their children experience. A child’s grandparents do not have the responsibility for education that their parents do, and therefore earn passes for teaching…to a certain degree.
Yet, I can’t help but wonder how I’m doing as a grandfather now that I have four and soon five grandchildren. I have the advantage of establishing my own criteria and grading myself accordingly over the last five-plus years of being a grandfather. Here’s my self-rated report card:
- Time spent with the grandchildren: C.
- The challenge has always been and will continue to be one of distance. My grandsons live with my daughter and son-in-law in Chicago which is at least a three-hour drive from home. My granddaughters live with my son and daughter-in-law near Milwaukee which is about a two-hour drive, depending on traffic. As a result, we generally see the grands on special occasions, when they venture north, or when we’re asked to watch them while their parents attend some event.
- Patience with their behavior: D.
- Both sets of parents have different philosophies on child discipline, both of which conflict with how my wife and I disciplined our children. Even though one grand exhibited “naughty” behavior, it is not for us to use that terminology with them. So, I have little patience with testing behavior in my belief children need discipline…and that, at times, requires corporal punishment such as spanking. Wrong in today’s parental culture, hence the D grade.
- Serving as a babysitter: B.
- I’m good at keeping an eye on my grandchildren when I’m in charge of their care. I let them have some rope but am close enough to prevent them from harming themselves. I’m better when they’ve been put to bed and are sleeping…for the most part. I can comfort a grand who has woken up crying and get them back to sleep easily. My magic touch and calming voice come in handy.
- Reading and teaching: A.
- My mother taught me to read and always emphasized characters and phrases. A skill I inherited to become an exceptional storyteller, or reader. I love it when one or more of my grandchildren sit on my lap and let me read a book to them. As they’ve gotten older, they like to read books by themselves, or at least look at the pictures. I still have opportunities to teach them when we visit museums or similar attractions.
- Playing and having fun: B.
- Opportunities to play with my grandchildren are fleeting, so I try to have fun and make games or other activities fun for them, too. One of the best times is when we get all four of them in a swimming pool and I can swim or dive and come up in front of or behind them. The youngest enjoys it when I ferry him around the pool in his water wings.
- Providing discipline or guidance: Incomplete
- I’ll refer this to #2 and leave it there since my children prefer that I keep my distance when it comes to discipline.
- Taking care of basic needs: A.
- Never had a problem with changing a dirty diaper, wiping a runny nose, or fixing a batch of macaroni and cheese or some hot dogs. And I’ve been able to tell when one of the grands has soiled a diaper. Some smells, to me, are easily recognized. I look forward to the day when diapers are only a memory.
- Sharing memories or life lessons: C.
- It’s easy to inject some history of our family, especially my parents, and the related life lesson when the opportunity presents itself. I just need to avoid usurping parental rights.
- Keeping them safe: B.
- As I get older, my reflexes are slowing down but I’m still as quick as ever when it comes to catching a grandkid seconds before a serious injury. One that stands out is saving my oldest granddaughter from running full speed into the downed tailgate of my pick-up. If something does happen and there are no serious injuries, I concentrate on letting the grands know they’re okay and that they’ll be fine…provided I’m confident of that.
- Admiration for their parents: A.
- Even though I may not show it or express it, I am proud of my children and their spouses and how well adjusted and smart their children have become. Kudos to them.