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Boomer Bytes #64: Grandkids and Other Fun Things

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.

Grandkids and Other Fun Things

By Steve Canipe

“If I had known grandchildren were so much fun, I would have had them first.” We have all probably seen that bumper sticker. I did and started wondering what exactly it meant. Did it mean that our kids were not fun? Or does it usher in a different dynamic?


With our kids we were the protector, teacher, guide, disciplinarian, etc. These roles for the most part we don’t have for our grandkids. Their parents provide all those things for their children…we just get to enjoy (and yes maybe spoil them, a bit). Depending on our age and the age of our children, our grandkids may be very young or many of them could already have graduated from college.

So what we have done and may have done with them will also be varied. Many of us will be providing support and in some cases substantive amounts of support. Maybe we are even funding the college education, buying a car, or other things that we, in our prosperity, want to do.

My grandparents were not wealthy enough to fund my college, buy me a car, or other expensive things. They showed they cared in other ways. Teaching me things about life that I probably would not have listened to from my parents. Grandparents are normally accepting and nonjudgmental of what we are doing. Unless we are doing something that irks them…fortunately for me there was not much that irked mine. Maybe this is because, as we used to say in our youth—they had taken a “chill pill.” Things were not so serious.

Today’s grandparents may not be as close physically to where grandchildren live. Both sets of my grandparents were within a 15 mile drive. So I saw them with great regularity. In one case, when both my parents were working on the 3rd shift in a textile plant, I regularly stayed overnight with my Canipe grandparents.

These overnight stays mostly happened when I was in the first grade. Mom and Dad would take me to their house, which was set deep in the woods (or it seemed to me then it was deep – probably less than a quarter of a mile!). I can remember reading my lessons, I was in the first grade and just learning about Dick and Jane and Spot through what I now know was a basal reader. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_and_Jane)

Every evening I would read to my grandmother particularly and she would have a lot of fun hearing about the adventures of the adventuresome duo along with their dog, Spot, and the cat, Puff. In hindsight I realize that she was not totally literate, and listening to the stories gave her the vicarious pleasure of reading. Maybe she knew it was helping me to learn to read and not be held back by not being a reader…I really don’t know. At this point it is irrelevant because, whatever the reason, it helped me develop into a voracious reader.

As Boomers retire, they often move to be closer to far flung children and grandchildren. In talking to some of my friends who have done the move…the reason they give is for the grandchildren not the children. This is an interesting dynamic and one which sociologists may want to look at more deeply.

Some of my friends who have made these moves get disappointed when their children move to other parts of the country. This often happens to younger parents who are moving to get ahead in the business world. Moves to corporate headquarters, jobs with more responsibility, and jobs with more money are not as common as they were before the recent deep recession, but they are still happening.

Having a place where grandkids might like to come visit is also a plus, if families live pretty far apart. Living on a beach, in the mountains, near a theme park, all are drawing cards. Getting the grandkids apart from their parents allows another opportunity for grandparents to spoil them!! Or to teach them without pressure. It also helps the parents have some alone time, if the kids are in a safe place with good old Mom and Dad!

I can remember my Mom saying that she was not going to raise my children (this was before I had any!!) But I remember our daughter staying with my Mom, and I’m not sure who loved it more. Our daughter was a “dirt kid” – she loved to be outside in the environment. Mom loved to piddle with flowers and vegetables. When our daughter visited, she was in near heaven with her “Nanny” with planting and growing stuff.

Once when our daughter was in middle school she entered and won a county poetry contest about visiting with her Nanny in the summer…so it was an excellent experience for both of them. I can remember Mom being so proud, as only a grandmother can be, when she was given a copy of the poem!

We were so fortunate that even though we got married and had kids later than most of our Boomer peers, my parents lived long enough and were of a fitness level to enjoy and spoil. Our son’s favorite dessert was having a peach pie and when we visited, he almost always had one baked for him.

On my second computer, I use a screen saver that shows various pictures. What I’ve done is to put old family photos in the folder that is used for the “photo” screensaver. Many of these are scanned since it was way before digital. I’ve pictures of my grandparents, aunts and uncles. Sometimes when I am working, I practice the 20-20-20 rule for preventing digital eyestrain. This rule is every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. (http://visianinfo.com/the-20-20-20-rule-preventing-digital-eye-strain/) Sometimes I get entranced by the photos and end up watching for much longer than 20 seconds because I also have images of my kids along with my wife and me in earlier and younger times!! I just looked over as I was writing this column and saw some photos I enjoy seeing. Boy did I have a full head of hair then or what? It seems to be a much better way to have your photos than a picture album that is infrequently if even opened.

So what about the grandchildren? With today’s digital cameras, you have a great way to capture photographic images of people to help remember them but maybe more importantly be remembered by them as they capture images of you. I wish I had more images of my grandparents but it was mostly dependent on film and prints. These were costly in the day and not a lot were taken. I have a few photos of me taken when I was a baby and toddler – but very few really. My kids literally had thousands taken of them and they were young before the digital age.

Grandkids are certainly enjoyable and they may help keep us young at heart. But as a boomer friend said to me, the best thing about them is that you don’t have to raise them. Have them visit, enjoy them, and then when you get tired you say to their parents “Isn’t it about time you guys go home? Don’t want you to be driving too late!!” Maybe not overly subtle but the point gets made anyway – “I’m tired of the kids – take them home.”

This was a sort of hard column for me to write since I don’t have any grandchildren yet. My daughter is not married (I know you don’t have to be married to have a child but luckily for me she has none). My son and his wife have been married for three years and have no kids yet—maybe soon. I refuse to bug him about it; unlike my Mom who bugged us about having a baby once we got married!!

What is your experience with grandchildren? Are you like me and have none and experience them vicariously or do you have a bunch or somewhere in between? Share your grandparenting experiences in the space below or send me an email at boomerbytes@yahoo.com. Maybe your own experiences with your grandparents would be good to share as well. I’ll look forward to hopefully hearing from many of you on this topic of grandkids and other fun things!!