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 | By Tom and Jo Anne Fogle

We've already raised our children - it's not our turn

Patrick and Eileen have been married for 30 years. Their daughter recently had a baby girl – Patrick’s and Eileen’s first grandchild. But now they have to decide what being a grandparent really means.

Finally, a grandchild! I can’t wait to baby-sit.

Eileen says: I was absolutely thrilled when our daughter, Karen, had a baby. Finally, we get the chance to be grandparents – and to have a baby in the house again. Karen is going back to work in three months and asked me if I could provide child care. I’d love to, but Patrick acts as if I’ve lost my mind.

We’ve already raised our children – it’s not our turn

Patrick says: Sometimes, I do think Eileen has lost her mind. I love my children and I love my new granddaughter. But we are finished with child-rearing – it’s not our turn anymore. Doesn’t Eileen remember how exhausting it is to answer an infant’s every demand, to chase after a toddler? I do not want a house full of playpens and high chairs – no day-care!

What should they do?: Having experienced a similar situation with our grandchildren, we can “expertly” say there is no easy solution! It is solvable, but it takes considerable discussion and communication between Patrick and Eileen first – and then with Karen and her husband. Patrick and Eileen need to share their feelings about parenthood, remembering back to when Karen and her siblings were small and needing constant care. Then they need to evaluate their current health and capabilities (mental and physical) and the circumstance at this time in their lives. Are they retired or soon to retire, or do they live a very active lifestyle where added child care would be disruptive and become counterproductive to their marriage relationship?

Being a grandparent is wonderful and a blessing. You have all the pleasures of being around small children again – playing childhood games, reading children’s stories, watching them grow and expand their horizons and being a “wisdom” person to them. You have greater patience with grandchildren and, in some cases, you have the luxury of handing them back over to their parents when you get tired. But not always!

Patrick has a point; he and Eileen have finished their primary child-rearing. However, it is also true that grandparents have additional responsibilities and the opportunity to participate in child-rearing in a way that is different from being a parent. Grandparents are an integral component of a child’s sphere of influence. Grandparents are in a unique position to offer advice, provide wisdom and become a safe haven for their grandchildren. They can be sources of inspiration, encouragement, stability and holiness for grandchildren who may not experience it from their parents. Applied broadly, child-rearing is never complete as long as there is still one child on this earth. God has blessed society with children, and it is up to each human adult to help these young children grow into maturity and become good citizens in the kingdom of God.

Prior to committing to full-time child care for their grandchildren, Patrick and Eileen would be wise to establish specific boundaries. Parents should recognize and respect that “grandparent” is not synonymous with “free baby-sitter.” We recommend that Patrick and Eileen start out as part-time, temporary, “emergency” care providers. This will give them the time to determine if this is a good fit for their marriage relationship. Even after 30 years, their marriage relationship comes first – first before parenthood and first before grandparenthood. Patrick’s and Eileen’s love for each other and their commitment to each other is the very thing they need to pass on to their own children and grandchildren.