by Dave Friant
It’s been both a rewarding, but at times frustrating leg of the race. The portion when the 60-and-over age group wade carefully into still another deeper section of the pool. The setting aside of the aches, pains, and wonderings about Baby Boomer relevancy in life for a chance to get pole positions for the 2nd go around.
It’s the ultimate high wire act. Performing without a net and doing so on occasion while shaking like an unmanned firehose at a 4-alarmer. Some measure of penance for past parental shortcomings? Possibly. More ideally, an avenue to demonstrate in a variety of ways the certainty of love we have for our offspring’s munchkins.
The production efforts of our own two Generation X’ers and their mates (birthdates between 1965 and 1976) resulted for us in four Generation Z’ers (birthdates between 1997 and 2012). All things considered, the three granddaughters and one grandson are doing well as they undertake the challenges of these times.
As I viewed it (Papa in grandchildren-ese), the initial laps of the grandparenting stroll presented few difficulties. Required was the blowing off of dust from a quarter century-old array of kid-handling techniques and approaches. Simply a rehash with a twist from earlier parental undertakings. Diaper changing? Not a problem. Surprisingly, the gagging reflex from poopy diapers was held in check. Cloth diapers and the resulting bloodletting from jabbed thumbs with safety pins ended their reign in the 1970’s when we as first-string parents ruled the roost. PAMPERS and HUGGIES entered the scene shortly thereafter and covered the issue (pun intended) sufficiently during our initial run as grandparents.
Attending athletic events/school-related activities, scratching our heads on “new math” issues, and general silliness with their friends was commonplace. Torn jeans at the knees and quads (defined nowadays as “distressed” garments by fashion experts) were still patchable and not to be worn at local malls or other pre-teen gathering spots. Sleepovers were face-to-face opportunities to solidify popularity amongst school mates. When they arose, issues of the day resolved themselves after cooling off periods and advice from parents. Time was seen as the antidote.
“The Times They Are a Changin’ is a 1964 Bob Dylan song. The lyrics are particularly applicable to both kiddos teetering on the outskirts of young adulthood as well as to grandparents seeking continued status as fixers during difficult times.
Next on the parenthood chart are the junior high school and beyond years; where puberty creates some chaos and no-longer-just-a-kid challenging issues seem to appear in ALL CAPS. Future college or employment decisions. “Do you REALLY love me?” boyfriend/girlfriend dilemmas. The sharing of thoughts, photos, and whatever else on that ______ (fill in the blank yourself. . . keep it clean) cellphone. Choices that have more impactful consequences than those made when the “eat ALL your vegetables” command at the dinner table was ignored.
While difficult at times, this Friant husband and wife team has made advances toward the goal of not discussing politics or controversial modern-day societal practices with our Generation Z’ers. Such an approach is difficult given that we’re the extra strength dosage of Ex-Lax with our free-flowing perspectives. Cannot our experiences and resulting bits of wisdom, no matter how many decades ago, be useful for our frustrated and confused grandkiddos? Maybe so, but for the most part our routes have been run. Outcomes determined. Sleepless nights endured.
Shhhh. Zip it. Statazit (for all my Italian friends). We’re in our own lanes of existence in 2022 with the mileage indicator having rolled over several times. Be content with allowing our successors to occupy the throne and handle the heavy lifting. Consider it a privilege to provide wise counsel and be the second-level quiet influencers when ticklish issues appear in the lives of our Z’ers. Be the grout to address areas that need some extra stability. As tough as it may appear to be, allow what the Beatles suggested in their 1970 hit song “Let it Be” to calm the anxiety.
Relax. While assigned to the observation deck, we’ve still got key backup duties to perform in the shaping of worthy adults-in-the-making.