I’m a lost cause. I was over the moon when we got the news that Katie, our oldest, was pregnant, gobsmacked when she gave birth to Andrew and I haven’t reeled in reason any better since the subsequent births of grandchildren Nora, Lillian and Henry.
Having grandchildren is like getting hit with a meteor but instead of flying stage left, you find yourself starring in a role that you were meant to play from the day you had your own kids. Who knew? Who besides all of the people who came before you, and they knew well.
Today is Grandparents Day. I had no idea there was such a holiday, but why not? However, when you’ve embraced this role, every day is grandparents day.
The following accounts are from several local men and women who have also found themselves in “leading roles.” They were eager to answer questions, even more so to send photos.
Note: Some answers have been edited for length or content.
The grandparents: Bettina Belter, pilates instructor; Glenn Hammett, graphic artist; Vince Roche, commercial property broker; Teri Jones, retiree; and Harriet Edwards, elementary school teacher.
What were you most surprised by in becoming a grandparent?
Belter: The giddiness and joy I felt, also because I wasn’t the one to give birth.
Hammett: How moved I was by watching our daughter, Clarice, assume the role of being a parent and how proud I am seeing what a great mom she is.
Roche: How time stops when you spend time with your grandchildren. The joy and pleasure that they bring to your life and how easy it is to love on them. The first thing I do when I visit them is get down and the floor and play with them.
Jones: I am sure I loved my children. We have pictures of us smiling when they were small. Then I had grandchildren and I could feel the endorphins explode each time I held the new batch of babies. All five of the grandgirls. Perhaps it was because I wasn't sleep-deprived or that I had laid down the desire to raise the next Gandhi. It never crossed my mind to worry if they would learn to read, graduate from college or get a job. They just had to look in my direction and I was happy. This love truly felt unconditional.
Edwards: Mostly by the depth of love that I have for my grandchildren, that differs from the love that I have for my own children. (I like my grandchildren much more.)
What have you been most grateful for?
Belter: That our grandchildren were born, healthy and have wonderful parents. What a delight and honor to watch our kids bloom into parenthood. I just pray I live long enough to see the teen years, "the payback" years.
Hammett: Clarice has been diligent about sharing his first year with us. She sends photos daily and we video chat at least once a week. She tries hard to keep us connected. We get to see her read books to him and watch him run around in their backyard picking dandelions and exploring the garden. It is definitely not the same as being there, but it is the best we can hope for right now.
Roche: That they live in town and I get to see them on a regular basis. I love reading to them, swimming with them and feeding the horses carrots together. Reading to the grandkids brings back all the memories of reading to my own children.
Jones: It is a gift to be close to the grands. My daughters and sons-in-law are generous with sharing the kids. I once asked my daughter, "When do you want the kids back?" Without a pause my daughter said, "December."
Once a month we have a cousin sleepover. Absolutely no parents. Now, the little girls text, and keep the whole family connected. We can pass the jokes around for days each child adding to the narrative. I keep all of the stories. It makes the best late-night reading.
Edwards: For the opportunity to nurture and care for the next generation of my family, and watch these little babies grow into wonderful children.
What effect has COVID had, if any?
Belter: Fortunately, COVID hasn’t affected our grandparenting. The parents been relaxed about it. They knew we were very careful and quarantined during the first two months. Our oldest, Adam, and his wife, Kelly, have our bonus grandson, Grayson, and have a baby due next month and we visit often. Max and Melissa have our 5-year-old grandson, Noa, and our identical twin girls, Pfeiffer and Remi, who are 11 months old. We’ve taken road trips to Oregon to visit a couple times.
Hammett: Yes, they live in Portland, Ore. We were able to fly up and see him when he was 2 days old, and again at Thanksgiving, but he is 13 months old and our only contact with him since then has been through FaceTime. Kianoush knows us almost exclusively as images on a phone screen, so when we do finally get to see him in person, I will be curious to see if he recognizes us.
Jones: Having computers and smartphones has made COVID bearable. We stay in touch every day. Two of my girls are doing virtual learning at my home. Again, the stress level is low. After all, if there is a computer glitch, we always have cinnamon toast. No teacher, parents, student, or school staff member will ever forget fall 2020.
Edwards: It's different in terms of taking them places, or doing activities, being able to visit them at school, or have large birthday celebrations and family gatherings.
Do you think you would have been a better parent had you known what you know now as a grandparent?
Belter: Having been a parent first, grandparenting is a hindsight experience. Had I known as a parent what I know now, I’d have been much humbler toward my parents and in-laws. I admire them and wish I could tell them ... I lost my parents early, both 71.
Hammett: Not really. There are a lot of things I could have done better as a parent, but I think that is a matter of perspective, as opposed to being a grandparent.
Roche: No. Spending time with the kids has always been important.
Edwards: A lot of my parenting skills came from the examples I saw of the way my children's grandparents interacted with my children. Both their maternal and paternal grandparents were great examples of quality parenting.
Do you see your child/children differently now that they have become parents?
Hammett: Clarice has given us a lot to be proud of throughout her life, but watching her become this incredibly patient, caring and loving mom ranks right up there near the top of the list for me.
Roche: Yes, with greater respect and admiration.
Jones: The best part of passing the alpha torch is watching my daughters take the lead. Jennifer is a fourth-grade teacher at Whitley Elementary and Magen is a clinical psychologist in private practice. Watching them maneuver careers and family is not for the faint of heart. I remember the exhaustion of those days and I admire my family's resilience. I am so amazed and proud at the strength of the women and men in my family.
Edwards: Yes and no. They're the same people, but I have noticed their newfound maturity that comes with the responsibility of being a parent. The way they are raising their children shows me they take the responsibility of producing quality individuals who will make a lasting impact on society and future generations to heart.