I fear becoming irrelevant in my grandchildren’s lives 156



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Last week I caught up with a dear friend Betty for coffee. We’re both in our late 60s, both grandparents, both with grandchildren who are in primary school or very early high school. We’ve been friends for a long time and for so long we’ve had very similar opinions on many things and similar outlooks on life. But the biggest difference we’ve had is how we’ve “done” grandparenting.

While chatting she told me that she fears becoming irrelevant in her grandchildren’s lives as she and they, get older. The more I think about it, the more I realise that this is probably not an isolated issue. As our grandchildren grow up, how do we stay relevant to them and involved in their lives – of course without overstepping the mark?

Betty gave me permission to write this article because after she revealed this to me she explained in further detail and we realised that perhaps her story could help others.

When her grandchildren were young she wasn’t as involved in their lives. She wasn’t fussed on being “used” and rightly so – with four kids she had done her share of the hard stuff! She would only babysit once a year or so on principle – she didn’t have regular babysitting help so why should she offer that to her kids? She factored their sporting carnivals, music festivals and drama performances into her life only when it suited her and waited to be told about them instead of asking and expressing an interest.

Betty jokingly called herself a “convenience grandparent” and would laugh about how she only had time to grandparent when it suited her social schedule. But now that attitude seems to be coming back to bite her.

While we spoke we realised just how important those early years are in shaping the grandparent-grandchild relationship. If you’re not there for them regularly, if you don’t express an interest in their lives and give them the love and attention that is required to build a meaningful relationship, it seems likely that they won’t be interested in suddenly starting that kind of relationship later on.

Betty told me that she feels like she’ll forever be the “distant” grandma who is too busy with her own social agenda and who prefers talking to the parents instead of the grandkids and this worries her.

The fear of becoming irrelevant in your grandchild’s life is a very real concern and I think that the only thing to prevent it is having a constant, loving, supportive presence in the lives of your grandchildren from an early age.

If you think about it, their early years are when they are taught right from wrong, what they don’t like and what they do like, who to trust and who not to trust. So if we don’t become important to them then, it’s unlikely we’ll ever become important later on.

This may create a harsh image of Betty and she is a lovely woman who doesn’t deserve harsh criticism. There is no right or wrong way to grandparent but if someone can learn from Betty’s story, then it’s a story worth sharing.

How have you shaped your relationship with your grandchildren? Do you share the same fears that Betty does? Or perhaps how have you prevented them? Tell us in the comments below…

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  1. Absolutely ! If you expect to be relevant, you must make time. The greatest thing you can spend on your children and grandchildren is time.

    4 REPLY
    • my point again I am only allowed to be relevant when it suits them, it is a very distressing and heartbreaking situation.

    • Oh please Gaye Gaye Millar pull the other one! You were supposed to spend the night at my house to ‘spend time’ with your grandchildren & just bc you got upset that I told you that my sister – your daughter – wasn’t fond of the bag you bought her, you cracked it & didn’t come to my house to ‘spend time’ with your grandchildren … Even better you don’t even bother to call them & tell them you’re not coming!!!
      If you’re going to talk shit about me mother then don’t do it on fb where I can see it!!

  2. I was involved with my granchildren all through their young lives but as they got older the parents decided we should not be so involved so we only go to birthdays and xmas no more invites to school or sporting events when we ask why are told you have done enough babysitting I know they are too old to babysitt but would still like to sometimes be part of their achievements

    6 REPLY
    • Sometimes people make bad decisions and I feel for you . These parents will be grandparents one day and I think will then realise what they did was unfair. We also love spending time with our 2 little grandchildren ,best time of all. Hope things change for you.

    • What’s wrong with just telling your children you would enjoy going to their concerts, etc. I’m sure they are just letting you off the hook by not asking you. Nothing in it, don’t be so touchy

    • Yes grandchildren I have run on all their lives are now to old for us, we don’t get as much as a hello… I gave up what I loved to do, now to old to go back to it, I feel very bitter… Live your life..!!

    • Ask them where and when their activities are on and go along to support/watch them. Don’t wait to be invited along….

    • Sounds familiar. My wife & I had a very close relationship with two of our grandkids right up to 2 yrs ago when a new man entered our daughters life. He is controlling & tho he doesn’t bully our daughter or granddaughter, he bullies our grandson to the extent that I contact DOCS. Then, after an argument with him in Oct 2014, our daughter has cut us out of her and our grandkids lives. Lawyer has told us it would be a waste of time taking it to court, (after we had unsuccessfully attempted mediation). So what do we do now?

  3. My husband and I always babysat all of our grandchildren from a very early age we were allowed to take them on days out and have overnight sleeps and have been to most special days and with them now getting older the eldest is 25 I must admit we now get the reward of bending very involved in their lives always seeing them receiving text messages and knowing their friends

  4. I have my own place above my daughter and son in laws garages so I am Grammy on the spot. We have had this arrangement for the past 3 years.
    I just love it.
    I have my own tasks to do while everyone is at school and work. The washing, the kitchen morning finish and the rubbish. Just enough to give me a daily purpose and keep my brain active.
    My daughter cooks the evening meal and sends me up a glass of wine. Very spoilt.
    It is lovely having two grandchildren on tap .. I have three in Melbourne. I get to go to school activities, weekly sports games and am a part of a great family unit.
    When I babysit the children eat and stay up at mine.
    I often wonder why more people don’t try and combine. I realise that it wouldn’t work for all but it does for us.
    I feel very blessed.

    8 REPLY
    • this arrangement sounds like heaven on a stick to me, but alas I do not have that choice, it was made for me some years ago…..

    • Jeanette your life is like mine…albeit my son and his wife lived with me even before they were married…now with two granddaughters in high school, i am still very close to them…my other granddaughter is 5 and has just started pre-primary, since she was 2 she has spent at least one night a week, and last year 2 nights…now she is full time school i will only be able to have her school holidays and the odd weekend because my daughter and her husband live about an hour away from me…its been a lot of work but i would not swap their love for anything…i too am very blessed…i have a lot more time for me now though which i am loving, but still available to help if needed

    • The children also enjoy the small bonus of having me home after school, school holidays and not having to do supermarket visits when my daughter gets in from work. A win win for all ….

    • Thank you. Yes it works well for all of us. Maybe more might consider doing the same if possible. You do learn to keep your mouth shut at times and head off to higher ground if things start going a little pear shape.

    • I too have this arrangement Jeanette and it works for us very well. I have short or long visits from my 2 grandchildren at anytime of the day which I love. And sitting when my daughter and son in law have a night out. I’m blessed too!

  5. She fears becoming irrelevant in her grand children’s lives??? By her own choice, she is irrelevant. Through her own selfish behaviour she has missed the most joyous gift of all.

    6 REPLY
    • A bit harsh there Coralie? Not everyone, through circumstances beyond their control, have had the obvious involvement you have………enjoy it

    • Why is it selfish when you choose to continue your own life, your own way, but not when you choose to involve yourself more in someone else’s? Both are choices you made to feel good about yourself.

    • My eldest sister had this. When her grand children grew up into adults she hardly saw them they were always to busy she babysat while mum worked baby sat so mum and dad wanted a night out they were there for dinner 2-3 sometimes4 times a week spent large sums of money on all of them

    • Frances Frances Malpas Twyman I feel it is selfish, because she has deprived her Grandchildren of herself – her knowledge , life experience, memories etc. When I was born I only had 1 living grandparent and I rarely saw her as we lived a great distance from each other. I didn’t know her and only knew about her life, through my Mum. My parents were so close & involved in my girls lives and shared such special relationships with them both. When my girls were quite young my marriage broke up & my Dad was the most wonderful male role model for the girls. My Mum, at 88 gave my eldest daughter away on her wedding day, which was what we all wanted, including her Dad. It was one of her proudest moments. My daughters sat with Mum a part of everyday of her last weeks, combing her hair, talking to her, massaging her hands & feet, playing her music – they & my son in law adored her. I am so grateful they had this wonderful relationship with their grandparents. They taught them so much & I see so much of them in my girls. I aspire to be even half as good a GP, as they were. I know I am lucky.

  6. My husband and I have always been a part of our grandchildren lives. And now we have 3 great grandchildren and it’s the same. We love spending time with them. Even though my husband has ALS doesn’t stop us having them come to stay. We are wanting to create many memories as we can with them in the time Ian has left.

  7. I dearly want to be involved but am not included in any activities or allowed to see them perform or look after my beautiful grandsons. There is a double standard. The boys love me and it makes very very sad. Grandparents who are allowed to be an active part of their little lives are very fortunate and it is wonderful for the children. Time , love understanding

    1 REPLY
  8. It’s a joy to be involved in my 4 grandkids lives- the eldest 21 next month, the youngest almost 13… We’re FB friends & we see each other frequently & keep contact with text messages…

  9. So very true. So fortunate with all our grandchildren….we willingly and enjoyably put in the time and effort and are close and involved with all our grandchildren. Speaking from experience though I have seen grandparents who have not been interested or involved become irrelevant.

  10. Betty isn’t alone in living her life that way. Many people think as she did. But I don’t think that her choices are necessarily the reason the grandchildren don’t have the time for her now. I loved spending time with my grandchildren when they were young but as they get older they have their outside interests, friends etc so they are less available to spend time with Nan. That is just the way it is in todays busy society.

    2 REPLY
    • I agree… Older they get less they have time for old people…

      1 REPLY
      • Why do people expect their grandchildren to race after them. I’m sure when you were that age you weren’t in constant contact with your grandchildren and I don’t think we should ours to be. Our eldest is 18, we don’t see a lot of him these days, often missing from family gettogethers, unless it is an important one, but then every now and then he just drops in to say hi and gives Nan &Pa a big hug. What more could you want.

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