My husband, the ‘awkward’ grandfather 88



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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.

Guest Contributor

  1. It takes a village – including ALL grandparents. Some, though, don’t like kids until they can converse sensibly. :3

  2. Divorce him.

    4 REPLY
    • And when the grandchildren grow up get busy, have their own lives, leave town to get employment, you’ll be all alone. “Divorce him” Definitely not the best advice I’ve ever heard.

    • Why would she divorce him? She says he was a good father, if a bit distant, and he loves the grand children even if he can’t interact with them like she does. I know some women who don’t relate or interact with their grand children. Very sad, but we are all different. For our part, we were young grandparents and loved it, and we still go out with them now they’re adults.

  3. Cut him a bit of slack. He has raised five kids. He is not a touchy feely person. Look at his good points and enjoy the grandkids in your own way. Everyone is different

    2 REPLY
    • My husband came from a family who were not affectionate, and has always found it hard to show any feelings… And has never been good company… But we have five ( all very loving) grandchildren, and I enjoy them to the fullest, I do feel sorry for him that he can’t show his emotions … And he never could show our three children any sort of love either ….

    • Everyone is different and if a person is brought up in a non-loving environment, it will probably rub off on them and consequently will have problems showing affection.

  4. Just enjoy your grandchildren life is far too short to worry but silly things like that he probably gets enjoyment from sitting back

    1 REPLY
  5. Does he suffer from depression. My husband is a Vietnam Veteran with PTSD and i have had to teach him how to interact with his grandchildren. As he was so sick when our own children were growing up he did not know what he should do. I have to remind him to give them a hug and tell them he loves them. He adores his Grandchildren and loves to see them and they love to see him but he can be very judgemental sometimes and I have to remind him that they are only little. These men missed out on there own children’s early years due to depression.
    Encourage him to join in on the fun he may need a little coaching but if he was sick or busy working during his own children’s early years he may feel out of place.

  6. I think for some men by the time they get to retirement it’s hard for them to adjust after being the provider and working very hard all their lives. They’ve fathered their children and just want time to have the freedom to do as they please. You have to remember they do not communicate as well as women and sometimes feel very lonely and left out. I’d say to the grandmother enjoy the grandchildren and don’t push the issue with your husband. I married a quiet man very content with his own company so I realised it was up to me to make friends for both of us or I’d find myself very much a homebody too. We’ve been married 43 years and he always enjoys going out to dinner with our friends once the arrangements are made. We don’t have any grandchildren but many nieces and nephews and their children as well as many friends who have grandchildren. I’ve become their great auntie and really enjoy them while my husband just sits back and looks on. I accept it for what it is, not worth a discussion over because it wouldn’t change him.

    3 REPLY
    • So agree with you, my husband of 47 years is a wonderful father and was great with the grandsons until they reached the ‘silly’ stage, now that they are teenagers he is starting to reconnect. He had a very difficult father so I think he found it hard to really know how to be with children.

  7. Just enjoy your grandchildren. I know we do everyone is different some people aren’t comfortable hanging out with the young the grandchildren don’t know any different that’s just grandpa

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