Camp Caribu, Family

Grandparenting Is The Cure For The COVID Blues

If raising healthy children is the most important task that those of us with children will ever undertake, then developing a relationship with our grandchildren is perhaps the most enjoyable!

I recently returned from a week’s vacation in Minnesota with my daughter, her husband and their two girls, ages 7 and 12. My son-in-law, Michael, and his family have a cabin up on Lake Superior where we spent the bulk of our time. While there we played numerous games, sang many songs, read and told stories, fished, canoed, watched the girls swim in Lake Superior (much too cold for us old folk!), hiked and in general, had about as much fun as is humanly possible.

Although I tend towards optimism, I will admit that the past few months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult for me. We had to cancel a scheduled trip to see the grandkids in Alaska, had to suspend “Cousin Camp” and hadn’t been able to travel to Minnesota to spend time with our granddaughters. It’s not that I mind the “sameness” of my ordinary life — I love it — but spending time with my grandchildren is like butter and sour cream on a baked potato. The potato by itself is sustaining, but the melted butter and sour cream are enhancements that transcend the ordinary.

I share all this with you for a reason. I love being a grandparent. It is one of the best roles I’ve ever assumed and each and every one of my grandchildren put a continual giggle in my heart. They are curious, spontaneous, creative, dramatic, hilarious, thoughtful, playful, and a joy to be around. I am my 7-year-old granddaughter’s “bestie.” When we are together, she is my shadow and her comment to Myra as we were packing to return home was a nearly tearful, “You have no idea how much you guys mean to me.”

My 12-year-old granddaughter is growing up so quickly. She is compassionate, hard-working, creative, “woke” (her words), and attuned to her world. She wants to make a difference and social justice is her cause. She plans on being an attorney specializing in social justice issues, and she was more than willing to grill me on my thoughts about specific issues. Twelve going on teen! But when we gifted her an American Girl Doll, she was a child again, reveling in the joy of a special toy.

Although I haven’t seen them in many months, my Alaska grandchildren are also quite special. We Facetime on a regular basis; but still, I acutely feel the pang of loneliness associated with their absence. I am hopeful that we can spend Christmas in Alaska this year, but only time and COVID will tell.

As much as I thrill to the exceptionalism of my grandchildren, I’m sure that my children were all these things as well. Somehow though, I feel like I missed out on some of that. Instead of reveling in the wonders of their worlds, I was pretty busy with my own. There were times when I was impatient and demanding. There were times when I was too busy to attend to them in the manner that they needed and deserved. There were times when I let little things that shouldn’t have mattered, matter, and when I did so, it was often at the expense of my children’s feelings.

Being a grandparent has freed me from the tyranny of my “parental” scripts and has allowed me to enter into my grandchildren’s world in a very positive manner. If they want me to be a dog, I’m a dog. Or a horse. Or a contestant in the Fairbanks Indoor Boardgame Olympics (FIBO)!

I can patiently teach my 12-year-old grandchild to play Pinochle (without frustration) and help my 7-year-old granddaughter find an appropriate “pond” for the minnows she gathered at the lake where we fished. My 8-year-old grandson loves “The Legend of Zelda” and I am more than willing to let him spend a half-hour describing it on Facetime. My 11-year-old granddaughter has created her own business making masks and we support her efforts by purchasing more of them than we will ever possibly use.

I find that the things that used to drive me crazy — incessant questions, developmental boo-boos, toys on the floor, have now become symbols to me of strong families with ties that bind and love that is transcendent.

Several years ago, my youngest grandchild accidentally locked her mother’s iPad. Needless to say, that was a frustration, but it was dealt with sans anger, yelling or alcohol!

I complimented Erin on how well she handled all of that and she said, “I learned from the best.” I thanked her for the compliment, but she replied, “Dad, sometimes I learned what NOT to do from you!” Ouch. But she was right and I have to own my parenting sins.

That’s the thing about grandparenting — it’s a sort of do-over and this time, I think I’m getting it right. I like to think of grandparents as “parents, only with icing.”

The Caribu app is an excellent way to stay in touch with your grandchildren whether near or far. Read, play, and color together in an interactive video-call. Download Caribu to get started.

You can read the original article in

Tom Westfall, Grandparent: Grandparenting Is The Cure For The COVID Blues, August 17th, 2020,