When I found out I was going to become a grandmother for the first time, I was over the moon. At only 48 years old, I didn’t quite feel like a grannie but all of those insecurities went away when I met my grandson. My husband, on the other hand, was non-plussed by the arrival.
We had 5 children of our own, who were all in their 20s by this stage and while he was a great father, he was always at a distance. Secretly I hoped he would become a bit softer in his old age (he is 7 years older than myself). It was not to be. As more and more grandchildren have come along, it has become clear I am the primary grandparent. I play, paint, and run around with the kids but Neil will just sit there in his rocking chair. If I pop one on his knee, sometimes he forgets to hold on to them!
One day I realised the extent of his quasi-absence when my granddaughter drew a picture of Mummy and Daddy and Granny. “Where’s Granddad, sweetie?”, I asked. “He’s that little dot in the background”. She didn’t have to explain… I knew she was hurt that Granddad didn’t have as much involvement as myself.
The kids have continued to grow up (and multiply!) and their Granddad will awkwardly stand there if they run up and jump on him. He doesn’t know what to do with his hands, he doesn’t know whether to look scared or terrified, and he just doesn’t feel comfortable at all. He just locks himself in the shed, or goes down to the pub. If I ever confront him, he passes it off and says that they’re just kids.
I just wonder if other grandparents go through the same thing with their partners? I don’t know of other grandparents who have problems with their partner who didn’t just slip into the role. I have no doubt Neil loves the grandkids, but I think as far as he’s concerned he has a right to feel that his parenting days are over. But does he deserve to feel that way? A friend of mine told me that her husband and herself are very much involved in the kids, but it’s both the other grandparents who are not involved at all. Affluent and selfish after years of working hard, they’d rather explore the world.
I want to be able to enjoy the grandkids with my partner but don’t want to push him into that if it’s not want he wants. I guess I’m just conflicted as to which matters more: his happiness or the grandchildren missing out on getting to know their grandfather.
I’d be interested to know your thoughts! Tell us in the comments.