My friend Pat is a pianist. Oh, not a famous, concert-touring pianist, but a serious student who works hard at and enjoys music. She teaches youngsters as well. Not her own 7-year-old grandchild: She lives in another city. That said, Pat says it felt quite natural, on a recent visit to that granddaughter, to sit down at the piano with her and ask her to play one of the pieces her new piano teacher had given her to practice.
Uh Oh. That's when Pat realized that the piano lessons were not quite what they should be. She held her tongue, but at one point she suggested, ever so gently, that one particular note should be held just a little bit longer. The 7-year-old defended her teacher's instructions and that was the end of that.
Or was it? When the piano teacher arrived the next day, Pat took a seat in the next room--one where she could hear the lesson but be out of sight. Before she could settle in, her granddaughter marched right up to her and said, "I don't want you to listen to my lesson."
Was Pat hurt? A little. But seven is seven. Pat's bottom line: "It made me realize that my role is to sit at the piano, listen to her play and say 'Brava! Brava!' And leave it at that."
When she told me this story, I was reminded of a recent incident with one of our grandchildren. Paterfamilias is a soccer player. In his youth, he played for his high school and college teams and then went on to play in local men's leagues. So he knows and loves his soccer. When he watched his granddaughter play, he saw a yawning need for more precise instruction.
Uh Oh. The next day he kicked the soccer ball around with her and gave her a few "gentle" tutorials. She allowed as how that wasn't how her coach had told her to play. Long story short: the session ended in tears (hers, not his).
I may be over-generalizing from two anecdotes, but it seems grandkids don't like to have their grandparents horning in on what they're learning from coaches or teachers. Maybe it disrupts the proper order of their world or tears at a coach-student bond--or the urge to conform. There's probably a time and place to share our gifts and talents with our grandkids, but when they are young, the best sharing may be a show of enthusiasm. "Brava! Brava!" says it all.
This posting is one of several featured in About.Com's blog on grandparenting that dedicates its September issue to grandparenting day. You can read these takes on grandparenting here.