Being a Grandparent Is Better

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David Maraniss, author and doting grandpa, is one of the many who had some bonus time with his grandchildren because of the snowstorm, staying at his daughter’s in Princeton, N.J., for a little longer before making his way back home to New York.

That daughter, Sarah Maraniss Vander Schaaf is also a writer, who blogs about life with two young daughters at Lunchbox Mom. Her father was a guest in her virtual home yesterday, too, writing about the particular joys of being a grandfather.

We don’t hear enough from grandparents here on Motherlode. You can read David’s entire essay here, but Sarah has given permission for me to give you a taste as a warm gift on a chilly day.

David (whose three granddaughters call him Toppa) writes:

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…That is what it is like to be a parent. That is decidedly not what it is like to be a grandparent. All the unavoidable tensions and expectations of parent-child relationships blessedly vanish. One of my books happens to be source material for a play that is running on Broadway now, and when people ask me how it feels, I compare it to being a grandparent. “It is all joy and not much responsibility, but in some sense it couldn’t exist without me,” I say. And that is the truth of the situation. We love our children unconditionally, but it is impossible for there not to be complications, large or small. The love for grandchildren is no deeper, yet somehow it seems purer, probably because it is free from the daily ups and downs of family life. We can bop in and out at our discretion. It is not my responsibility to get up in the middle of the night when Ava chooses not to sleep. When Heidi, with her boundless energy and curiosity, tires us out, we can retreat to the back bedroom or find a book to read and give her back to her mom or dad. When Eliza, our Littlest E, expresses her hunger, she needs her mother, not me.

Just as every generation reinvents parenting, every older generation discovers the unexpected joy of grandparenting. When I am in my office trying to write, brooding over a sentence or a paragraph or the shape of a chapter, absolutely nothing in the world lifts me more than getting an e-mail attachment from New Jersey or Tennessee with the latest picture of Heidi, Ava or Eliza. Heidi with her gorgeous red hair and radiant spirit, Ava with her sweet and tender mischievousness, Little Goose with her infectious smile. I love those three little munchkins more than I could ever express. They are the best presents anyone could ever receive. They are the frankincense, gold, and myrrh for this Lunch Box Toppa.

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