There are no rules for being a grandfather.
What is a grandfather? Searching for an answer, begs the question “What is a father?” The intentional role of a father should be to provide and protect. There is more, but these are foremost. A baby arrives as a totally dependent person, and a father’s role encompasses the life of a new person while establishing a unique relationship that evolves but never ends.
While rearing a child, the father has been compared to an archer launching an arrow. He prepares, takes aim, and provides the force; and the result is measured by how well the arrow flies.
These are the words of Kahlil Gibran:
On Children Poem
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
What is a grandfather? A grandfather is first a parent. This duty assumes new dimensions, but once begun, it persists as long as life. Adding “grand” creates a new role. It should be to love a grandchild unconditionally. That grandchild you love has a special relationship with the parents who launched this person. You don’t compete. Your role is to help a grandchild make his or her journey in life one that satisfies—not how much but how well. A grandfather gives love, while encouraging effort, and recognizing accomplishment, but never demanding. A grandfather neither cajoles, directs, nor corrects as long as a parent is there.
The grandfather’s special role is to be an example of the dignity and quality of life as it descends from its apogee and completes its natural course. While depending on the parents for the hard part, any grandparent should simply enjoy the fruits.
I have no experience being a great-grandparent. My guess is when that comes, it will be with amazement. A third generation beyond are people who will live into the next century—and that is a long time from now. Probably the best thing a great-grandfather can do is to leave behind memories – let them be good.
Some of us are writing memoirs. I see one I wrote sitting on the coffee table, mostly unread. My guess is the most avid reader of that book will be a great-grandchild who is curious and wants to learn about someone he or she may never have met.
By Gene Helveston
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