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The blessing and challenge of grandparenting

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Stella and Steve Buhagiar on taking up thier new role in life as grandparents. Photo: supplied
Stella and Steve Buhagiar on taking up thier new role in life as grandparents. Photo: supplied

We were blessed to become “brand new” grandparents in our mid-40s with the arrival of our beautiful granddaughter Mila.

This sense of newness, however, also brought with it a few questions of self-identity. Where did we fit in? Had we been relegated to the sphere of croquet and lawn bowls?

Stella quickly overcame the identity issue as her excitement grew about taking up this new role in life which extended her already well established maternal bent. Steve, on the other hand, was worried that it would mean becoming super responsible and settling for the more mundane and quieter aspects of life.

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As was bound to happen, once we had the privileged opportunity to hold little Mila in our arms, any such questions quickly melted away.

It was a wonderful feeling to realise, now in a more mature manner, that this child bore within her, the heritage of so many individuals who had contributed to her absolute uniqueness and unrepeatability. What a wonder!

It also became obvious quite quickly, that this was a child whom we had to ourselves only in fits and starts.

Unlike our own children, we could only ever influence by way of respecting her parents’ fundamental role as the primary caregivers in her life.

Our children had now become parents. It was hard to see them do things that we had learnt “not to do” without seeking to make some interjection.

“They have to learn for themselves”, Stella would wisely say.

We remembered the times when we’d had disagreements with our own parents with regards to the “right manner” of rearing children.

Personally, we didn’t want to revisit those scenarios but at the same time we thought we did in fact know something about bringing up children!

In time, Mila was joined by her little brother Enzo, and little he was, being born at 24 weeks.

It is in the more challenging times of family life that grandparents are given the opportunity to step up and spread the love they have on a whole new level and primarily by way of service.

As parents and grandparents, we recognised with minute sensitivity the needs of those we loved and the manner in which we could be of assistance to them, in order to lighten their growing load.

During the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples that he had come to serve and not to be served.

As grandparents, we came to realise this quite quickly as the opportunities to do so multiplied as more grandchildren, Theo and Jerome, came our way.

Stella sought to serve with a smile despite what she might have been feeling inside.
Our experience of serving was that it built a fruitful basis for meaningful communication, and oftentimes, an eventual path to peace in the family.

In light of the ever-increasing financial pressures for both parents to go off to work, the offer to care for our grandchildren was an easy one, especially in light of the assistance given us by our own parents.

We had witnessed the great bonds of love that developed when grandchildren had the time to hear their grandparent’s stories and anecdotes and we desired to have these same opportunities with our own.

We also found that by looking after our grandchildren, we were afforded the time to pray with them, a practice which complemented and strengthened the aspects of Faith which were taught them by their own parents.

It is a supreme gift to be a grandparent in today’s culture, which is often adverse to the inherent dignity of human life.

It is a gift to experience anew the wonder and creative vitality of children. Just this week and at the end of a weekday Mass, Mila looked up at Stella and said, “Nanna, next time we come to church can we sit at that seat over there, next to the steps?”

She was pointing to the pew closest to the sanctuary because she wanted to “see better.”

Grandparenting affords us the same opportunity. To “see better” the ever-new gift of God himself incarnate in the lives and persons of our grandchildren.

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