My wife Vicky and I just became grandparents for the first time! Our oldest son Bobby’s wife Sarah gave birth to our grandson, Benjamin Thomas, more than 6 weeks early, on May 22. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be grandparents. It’s been a dream of ours for many years now.
1) Being a grandparent is different than being a parent
Grandparenting is a completely different perspective. It’s difficult to explain the feelings involved, but I know they are different. I am different having raised kids of my own. I have much more experience, wisdom and a completely different set of filters for reality.
I don’t think it is any better or worse – just different. I am much less nervous, less worried, more excited for the bigger picture and more attentive and treasuring of each and every small detail.
Since little Ben was born a little more than six weeks early, he faces some serious challenges in preparing to breathe on his own, eat on his own, and be ready to come home. That’s a big, emotional difficulty for his parents, Bobby and Sarah. They are very private people, but I know it is weighing heavily on them.
While I do not want to downplay the seriousness of the situation, I am filled with a great deal of hope. I see little Ben as a strong little fighter, who is going to make it home as a happy, healthy infant – probably slower than any of us want – but I believe he is going to make it and thrive. It’s a perspective that is powered from a different vantage point.
His parents are in a much more difficult and emotional position. It is their first baby. They want to hold him, love him, bring him home. They don’t want to have any issues with his breathing, heart or his ability to eat, process food, and fully utilize his little diapers. It is difficult as a parent of your first baby to have to deal with potentially serious complications.
As, a grandparent, for whatever reason, I am just filled with hope, love, trust and awe. While my heart goes out to Bobby and Sarah, I trust them as parents, I trust the hospital, doctors and nursing staff, and I do not have that minute-to-minute, present unknown to deal with like they do. I get to see things a little more removed. I am thankful for that and I am thankful that I can bring that perspective to the situation.
2) Seeing your own kids grow up is awesome, confusing and weird
Seeing your baby grow up, become an adult, get married, and have his own baby is a mind-blowing experience which causes a great deal of introspection and reflection in my mind and heart
I am completely in awe of the whole parenting process from start to transition into adulthood. Each stage of that process has been new, exciting, gut-wrenching and difficult. Each successive stage is more challenging, and has more at stake than the next.
It is almost like you are in a continual process of being groomed as a parent for what is coming next. The entirety of the process of adolescence, jr high, high school, college, moving on from college, etc., is pretty amazing to look back on in hindsight. I can appreciate much more of it in hindsight, than I could when I was going through it in real-time.
I have discovered that our kids are both profoundly influenced by us as parents, and at the same time, relentlessly independent and creators of their own self and personalities. It’s both at the same time – and in different proportions and different times in different scenarios.
I can see reflections of the strengths and weaknesses of me and my wife in our kids, and at the same time, I see the way they have become their own unique, awesome individuals, with their own set of strengths and weaknesses that are independent of mom and dad. It’s like watching a beautiful, harmonious set of music and dance unfold before you that is flawlessly executed by people who are less than flawless for sure.
The funny thing for parents is, it’s never over. You never stop being a parent – but your role changes for sure. While it is bittersweet, it is good to move on, for everyone, and I look forward to the next stages. Each one will have many new opportunities to be cherished.
I am incredibly proud of Bobby and Sarah, and I love who both of them are, and I look forward to seeing them parent our little grandbaby!
2) You can fall quickly and completely in love with kids who are not your own
Wow. I love kids. I always have. But, it is still amazing how quickly and completely I have fallen in love with this little guy that I have barely been able to touch or spend time with. He is already tied to my heart in a deep and meaningful way, and those feelings will only grow stronger every day.
I am reminded of the importance of mentoring, coaching, role-modelling and coming alongside kids that are not your biological children, but are in a unique and special position in the sphere of your life.
Vicky and I have had the opportunity to adopt our good friend Julie’s three children after she passed away from cancer in 2011. We feel blessed that Julie knew that we had fallen in love with her kids. In the midst of that tragic situation of devastating loss, Julie was able to have confidence that there were people who would love and care for her children if she was not able to. That is a wonderful gift to give to someone – and her children have been a wonderful gift to us.
While I do not understand the process, I know first hand that you can fall in love with children who are not your biological kids. Sometimes, it is in dramatic ways like adopting children into your home – but most of the time, it is in smaller, more incremental ways. We all can and should play smaller roles in investing in someone’s kids.
This investment can come in many shapes and sizes, and being connected to a faith community makes it that much easier to get connected to those opportunities. It will not be easy – there is always a cost involved – but, in the grand scheme of things, it is well worth it – and there are plenty of rewards to go around. Some you will receive right away, some down the road, and some rewards you will never have the privilege of seeing – at least not in this lifetime.
The responsibility for investing in others’ kids, like biological parenting, does not end at a certain age. We will always have roles to play in the lives of the biological children of others.
At the same time, Vicky and I have been incredibly blessed as parents to have so many other people who have loved on our kids, and continue to love on them.
4) Having resources is a huge advantage
The neonatal intensive care unit and Edward hospital in Naperville is amazing. The level of competence in the care is amazing. The seamlessness of the process is amazing. The vehicles of care are in a constant state of flux and change based on the current demands of little Ben’s physical condition and how he is responding to current treatment. I have full confidence that Ben is in the best place he can possibly be in right now – and that is an enormous blessing and relief.
So many people, here in the US and in other countries, do not have access to this level of care. Without getting into the politics of it, I can tell you that my heart aches to know that if Bobby and Sarah happened to be in a different part of the world, or raised in a different socioeconomic environment, that their little guy would have a significantly reduced chance of getting healthy and whole.
I am both thankful for our opportunities and also motivated to advocate on behalf of those who do not enjoy such privilege.
5) It’s easy to forget the preciousness of life
There were half-a-dozen, highly trained health professionals attending to little Ben before he even came out into the world. Immediately after being born, he was whisked away into a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit where he continues to be under the care of dozens of dedicated, professionally trained staff around the clock.
The quality of his life is of the utmost, preeminent concern of everyone on staff. Through this, they are conferring and communicating a huge amount of value and worth on this little four and a half pound bundle of joy.
In stark contrast, so many people who have a few years on little Ben, are treated with very little dignity, worth and value. Some more be may deserving of that than others, but no one in that neonatal intensive care unit is even thinking about how those kids in there may turn out, who their parents are, what their family situations are, etc. None of that matters.
The value of those little lives matter – no judgment – just love, care and concern.
I want to be able to see older kids and adults the same way the neonatal professionals see those little premature babies. Every single adult I come across in my day-to-day life was – or should have been – a prized, valued little baby – my precious than anything else in the world.
Getting older, and maybe less cute over time, should not affect our innate worth and value as individuals – but it all too often does. From my perspective as grandpa, I want to see cure, lovable little guy or gal inside of every adult I interact with – whether they are friendly or angry, like me or not like me at all, and everywhere in between.
Wrappin’ it up
So those are my thoughts on day three of grandparenting – thanks for listening!
Vicky and I are jazzed out of our minds with our new little grandson, Ben, and we can’t wait to have him home and healthy.
He has lots of Cubs, Bears and Blackhawks gear awaiting his arrival at home!
Love you Ben!!