Good Fathers Make Groovy GranddaddiesJune 14th, 2012 © by Susan Swartz
While much is made of the new style of grandmother, the kind who likes to be called Glam-ma and goes zip-lining with her grandkids, there’s been less attention given to the remodeled grandfather. He may still choose an old fashioned name like Gramps but he’s decidedly a different creature from the traditional model. Nothing like his own grandfather.
From a small intimate sampling of today’s breed of granddaddy I can report that men of a certain age tend to turn to total mush when their children have children. This new creature may be a surprise to those children who lived with him during his more stressed out, work-based, professional competitive years. Who may recall him as a reliable and supportive father, but not someone necessarily known for his patience or singular attention to a child’s demands.
Sure, he may be a late bloomer in the warm and fuzzy department but I like to think that all the while he was being a good father he was evolving into a groovy grandfather.
When I was little, grandparents were older, settled versions of their younger selves. Grandmothers were round and wore aprons and black lace-up shoes and their hair in a bun. The current crop, I like to think, is hipper, more adventurous and definitely more cosmetically upgraded. Grandfathers wore vests and pocket watches and rolled cigarettes and were often as stiff and untouchable as their formal portraits. Now they may wear jeans and earrings and ride motorcycles.
My grandfathers were both fine men but I didn’t think of them as fun guys. I don’t remember actually playing, like down on the floor, with either of them. We didn’t do tea parties or color. I’m not sure I even sat on a grandfather lap. I kissed them when I walked in the door because my mother said, “give your grandfather a kiss,” which got me a loose-limbed embrace with as little skin contact as possible.
I had two grandfathers, the standard allotment. My grandchildren have a swarm of grandfathers, a treasure trove of mature modern male role models who know grandfatherly things like what makes lightning and how to play ball, but who also change diapers and kiss bruised knees.
My research shows that grandfathers today can do almost everything grandmothers are expected to do. Make lunch, deliver to ballet, accompany to kinder-gym, skip and jump rope.
They do the traditional stuff like carve the turkey, break up squabbles and glare at you for doing the thing he just told you to stop doing. But unlike old style grandfathers who seemed more observers than players, today’s models likely know what size their grandkids are, what grade they’re in and their birthdays.
Grand-kids haven’t changed all that much, so why have grandfathers? Maybe they’ve been watching their own children, namely their sons and sons-in-law, be hands-on involved fathers. Maybe they were waiting all along to be invited in.
All I know is, give a grandfather the latest baby to fit on his lap for a reading of “Five Little Monkeys” and he’s a happy man.