As parents we worried, watched and weaned our children through their various stages of growing up: from wee babies to toddlers to teens and beyond. Now our kids are having kids and as grandparents we're experiencing those stages but in a different way. At least that is the point Karen Rancourt, who writes an advice column for Grand Magazine. as Dr. Gramma Karen, makes in her list of grandparent stages.
The stages, Dr. Gramma Karen writes, "are intended to provide a framework to think about and better understand grandparenting roles and how these roles change as grandchildren age." Of course, they may vary as more grandchildren are added to the family. You can read it all here but below is my brief summary of the Big Five stages of grandparenting.
Stage 1: Grandparents as indispensable contributors (birth to 4 years old): We the grandparents are very involved in our first-born grandchild's life, called into service by the inexperienced parents for advice and counsel. We're highly valued for our experience and wisdom.
Stage 2: Grandparents as critical contributors (4 to 8): As our adult children become more practiced as parents, our greatest value is in spending time with our grandchild. We do a lot of teaching, educating and hanging out. Our grandchild may even consider us their best friend.
Stage 3: Grandparents as important contributors (8-12): Friends become our grandchild's focal point. We're less of the main attraction. Our role is being social directors and chauffeurs, helping with the arrangements and transportation to help the grandchild be with their friends or go sport practices or art classes. We're chauffeurs; we support our grandchild from the sidelines.
Stage 4: Grandparents as occasional contributors (12-16): The reality for many pf us is that our grandchild and their parents (our adult children) need us less as an active part of their lives. Our main role now is to be a backup--we might take grandchild to an activity or doctor's appointment when the parents have other commitments.
Stage 5: Grandparents as nonessential contributors (16 - adulthood): We realize, sigh, that we are no longer needed. Our work as participants in the ongoing growth and development of our grandchild is done.
As a grandparent in stage 5, I find that nonessential tag stings. And yet, much as child rearing was, each grandparenting stage is somehow more entrancing than the previous one. We may not be essential in stage 5, but we are still privy to the joy of being around our young adults and understanding the world through their eyes.
I can't help but end with this snippet of Robert Browning verse: "Grow old along with me/the best is yet to be..."