There’s something powerful about growing old gracefully. It's not just growing old that matters, but something happens when you become a parent and then a grandparent. It has to do with continuity. You know what you didn't know when you first started in the big circle of life.
Grandparents are generally known to often spoil their grandchildren. When a healthy relationship ensues between the grandparents and parents, they can serve as pillars of strength and wisdom regardless of their social and economic standing.
They have the advantage that they've done this before and whether or not they got it right, there’s that gift of hindsight which allows them to see a little further from being a little older. Don't blindly think that all old people should be associated with wisdom, but this article went on to uncover a couple of things that grandparents wished first-time parents didn't know.
It lists some of the things they discovered from advice or merely just from keeping on living. From casual chats with grandparents, it was clear that many believed that life had a way of teaching those who wouldn't take heed of the advice. Just by living and keeping on living, lessons were bound to be learned and vital information gained.
While there was an inclination to share what they wished first-time parents would know from their life experiences, life in general and so forth, there were also those things close to their heart that they longed for parents-to-be not to know. The position now was different, it was almost from one parent to another rather than parent-child. This is what they had to say.
7 Sins of the Father...
“If you don’t fight these battles to win, those demons will go on to attack your children too. Growing up, I had a lot of children outside of my marriage. My immediate family knew and I saw that my son – although only in his late twenties – has the same problem. He is not married but has a string of children with different women.
“As a grandfather, I wish I hadn't let things get so far. I wish he had seen self-control from me. I wish I could have been the one to show him that a man must love his wife when I had him in those influential years. It hurts me to see that the same battle my own father lost, I lost and my son is losing. Among his children, he has boys and I don’t want them to go through the same pain, especially in this era of so many diseases,” said the disappointed old man.
He was mostly disappointed in himself for not fighting to change what he termed as generational curses. He wishes there was a moment in time where he could sit down with his grown son and talk to him and advise him to be a better father than what he was and is before he passes away.
You never know what vices you're passing on
His greatest regret was not being open to his family and particularly his son in his formative years. There was always so much domestic violence and it passed on to his son. His focus was on other things and he saw his son live out his life the same way that he had seen his father live.
“I wasn't the best father and husband I could have been, and that's something I greatly regret. When I hear that my son is following in my footsteps, it hurts and scares me deep down. I have propelled a generation of infidelity and I pray God has mercy and grace on us.
“Out of so many children scattered across the continent, very few actually visit me or support me in my aging years. I want those who read your article to ask themselves if that is what they want. Was it worth it to create a scarred and angry generation? No! Learn from me. Love your wives! Love your children! Say no to sex outside of the confines of marriage! Remain faithful. Look at me young lady, is this how you want to age?” asked the old man with regret and sadness in his voice.
6 Just Keep Living
“Keep living, that’s what my old man used to tell me. Back then I didn't understand what he was saying. Whenever he would say something important that I wasn't ready for, he wouldn't fight or argue with me, but just said that I should keep living and one day we'll have this conversation in a couple of years… I now fully understand where he was coming from,” said Naledi’s granddad.
According to the old man, life in itself is a teacher and what he wished first-time parents knew was that like him, they will one day be sitting on the sidelines watching their children grow up. Even though he described it as a blessing, he added that it's a humbling experience, because one day you realize that you're now that old person who can only give advice.
The role of a grandparent in the normal setting is slightly different to that of a parent. Sometimes parents will disagree with what grandparents say and the parent has the final say because it's their child on the line.
Looking forward instead of appreciating the here and now
“It's great and also a bit surreal that my opinions about how Naledi’s parents are raising her are just that… opinions. Sometimes I see them spoiling her or not harnessing talents that I think should be harnessed, but the reality is that I've had my chance in raising my own children and now merely serve as an advisory board member,” continued the grandfather.
He said that as a first-time parent, you never really know all that you instill in them will have a lasting change. You do, but it only hits you later in life. He now hopes he’s done a great job raising his children, because when the baton is passed forward, it's gone.
Be present with your children, mentally and physically
There were times that his parents felt things should be different about the way he was bringing up his children, but he didn't always listen. They could see things he couldn't, such as working too much and not spending enough time with the children, not listening to them intently and sparing the rod when it was needed.
Likewise, now that he was the grandfather, all he can do is spoil the grandchildren a little whenever he has them (so they'll want to visit him again) and pray for them daily.
5 Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child
The Biblical saying of spare the rod and spoil the child is something that grandparents wish first-time parents knew and also didn't know. It's because while they don’t want to cause pain to their grandchildren, they knew that the children’s parents (their grown kids) had a moral obligation to raise children who were prepared for the real world.
“When I see my child punishing my grandchild, it's painful. I wish I can hide her. Yet with the same breath, I know that what they're doing is right. By lovingly molding their child’s character and pruning away disrespectful mannerisms, they're raising a child who knows that there are consequences for their actions.
“One of the grandchildren had a problem with taking things that didn't belong to him. He would cry when he was caught and disciplined. It hurt me so much to see my grandchild hurt, but inside I knew that if that aspect of their character was not shaped away, it could lead to detrimental effects like prison or even getting killed while stealing,” said Naledi’s grandfather.
Knowing how to punish your children and help them to learn right from wrong
He alleged that he sometimes wished parents did not know that by sparing the rod they were spoiling their child, but took comfort in knowing that one day when he was no longer in this world, that child would live to have a fighting chance because their parents opted for tough decisions.
The reality – according to the grandfather – was that the world was rough and would not take kindly to having thieves around. As an old man, he now knows that everything big starts small. As a grandparent, he now understood that his children were responsible for bringing up their own children as best they could and to equip them for the real world.
“One moment you think it is cute for your child to steal sugar and have sugar crystals all over their mouth and the next moment, they're all grown up and you have raised a jailbird…” he paused. “Consistency is key. Children learn to do more of that which they think will cause a reaction and parents have a duty to instill the moral compass that they have in their children,” continued Naledi’s grandfather.
4 One Day Your Children Will Know Your Flaws
Unlike when he was a young dad and his child thought that he was a hero, things are a bit different as a grandparent. Growing up he described how they were inseparable and how the child would always draw him as big and strong in his pictures, but now that he was an adult, his child saw even the things that he had tried to hide from him.
Now that he was a grandparent, his son knew a lot of his flaws that he wished he would never know. He was more human to his son and longed for the days when his son figured he was perfect and a Superman of some sort.
“Now that I have grown kids who have kids themselves, I'm ashamed for not being perfect in their eyes. I also hope that they learn from me. There were times when there was domestic violence in the home and it saddens me because even though it's no longer so, back then I was his hero.
When you're children know who you really are, it changes the parent-child dynamic
“I want him to learn from me. When I see him get cold with his partner I want to hug him and tell him, son, it's not worth it. It will soon be over and you don’t want to grow old like me. When I see him opt for work rather than spending time with his family or not visit me as much as I hoped, I know it's because he learnt a lot of that from me and it scares me. It saddens me,” said an old man at a retirement home who inquisitively asked what I was writing about.
His greatest fear came true because now he was aging alone in a home full of strangers. His child found out about the domestic violence and how he treated his mother growing up. He wished parents would realize that a day would come when their children would look them eye-to-eye and see the flaws and all.
The talks that they have are no longer pretentious in a way, but because he knows the truth, his son rarely visits him. He wished he could go back and do it all over again, but knows that he can’t. “I now just take all that they give me and pray,” said the lonely old man.
3 It Won’t Always Be Like This
“I wish my adult children didn't know that it won’t always be like this because I think they would take things slower. I think they would be in the moment and appreciate each day rather than survive each day with the innate knowledge that their strong-willed children will one day grow up and learn for themselves that life can be harsh if you're not disciplined,” said Mr De Kock, a retired pensioner.
While he was pleased that parents knew that their child will one day grow up and have to face the real world for themselves, he wished parents would instead see it as though all they had was that moment, because they wouldn't give up or lose hope.
He alleged that if parents knew the difficulty they were facing with their children would pass, they would most likely have spent more time at home trying to teach the children in other ways rather than give up.
Don't give up on trying to reach your strong willed children
“I believe that if I could go back and be a first-time parent who still knew what I now know, I wouldn't have given up as quickly as I did. I would have persisted and stayed strong in that which I wanted to impart to my strong-willed children.
“Sometimes as a parent you think, it’s okay, it'll pass. One day they'll see more of me. One day, they'll grow up and understand why I couldn't be there for them each night. One day they will understand why I could not reconcile with their mom. One day they'll do this and that… If all they had and knew was that moment, I think society would be so different,” said the old man.
He alleges that while it's great to know that your child will most likely learn and understand one day, it was important not to use it as an escape route to not be present in their lives now. While he was pleased to move from one project, one career to the next because he knew the children wouldn't always be in school and need money, he now sees traits in how his children raise their children and can't fault them, no matter how much it distresses him.
2 It Hurts Me to Be the Disciplinarian
Another thing that grandparents wished parents didn't know was how much it hurt to discipline their children or deprive them of things that they wanted. It's something that's not easy to experience as a parent.
For example, when your child is angry at you for not buying them everything that they desire and they curse you, lock themselves in the room and nowadays some even take it as far as trying to commit suicide.
“I wish I could take the pain away from my adult children, especially when they discipline their children and the children retaliate by not talking to them, telling others about them and thinking they are the worst parents in the world. I wish I could make them strong and fortify their hearts because I know firsthand that it's so difficult and painful to go through that as a parent,” continued De Kock.
Never be afraid to do what's right by your children
Among the reasons he thought parents should remain resilient were:
1 One Day When You Have Kids of Your Own You'll Understand
It was sad to note that while the list was full of the joys of parenthood, it also had a lot of regrets. One thing that was clear was that all the parents loved their children dearly, even if they had not told them so or confirmed it with their actions when they were raising their children at an impressionable age.
While visiting an elder at an old age home, one woman emphasized how she wished her adult children could instill more of the things that really mattered in life such as family, faithfulness and being there for each other.
She mentioned how when she was a young mother, she really wanted to give her children all that she could and it came at a price of sending them to boarding school. Back then, it offered more steadiness than she could have provided them and she was also able to pursue her career, travel the world and pay for the expensive school.
Your children will always need you
Now that the children were grown, she longed to see more of her family, but like her, her daughter was busy winning awards and traveling here and there. She wished she had invested in a different set of priorities because even though she was close to her child, the child was often busy.
So often she chose a raise and to go elsewhere instead of attending her sports meetings. There were always more important things and she didn't want to be seen as the career woman who should have stayed at home.
Your presence or absence is felt in your children's lives
Her hope was that one day when she was the one aging, her children would be closer to her to listen to her and really have heart talks about growing old and passing onto another world. She hoped that her grandchildren would know her and not just visit her on some important days.
“I am aging, that I cannot deny. I really wish that my daughter was here more often. I wish that the grandchildren could come and play next to me and not just sit and play with their cell phones whenever they did. I think maybe they are too young to understand now, but one day when they have kids of their own they will understand… I hope it is not too late by then,” concluded the woman who refused to be named because she did not want to look as though she was criticizing her daughter and grandchildren whom she adored.