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Terry Woster column: Grandkids and grandparents

The world is a much better place when grandchildren and grandparents get to spend time together. I'm not suggesting that grandparents should raise the grandchildren. Heaven forbid. We'd spoil the little darlings silly, and they would run us into ...

Terry Woster

The world is a much better place when grandchildren and grandparents get to spend time together.

I’m not suggesting that grandparents should raise the grandchildren. Heaven forbid. We’d spoil the little darlings silly, and they would run us into the ground inside of a week. There’s a reason most infants are given to younger couples.

But frequent contact between the old folks and their children’s children is -- in all but a few, crazy situations -- a good thing.

I say that coming off a few days with the 7-year-old granddaughter. She lives 85 miles away. That’s a great distance; just far enough that we don’t bop up and down the highway every day but near enough that we can get there every couple of weeks and they can return the visits at frequent intervals. We get together for many occasions, beyond just the key holidays.

(An occasion in our relationship can be a track meet, a school play, a piano recital, a piano practice, a birthday, a lazy Sunday, a new flavor of sherbet or a new type of sundae at Zesto, the grand opening of Zesto in the spring, the last day of Zesto in the fall, well, you get the picture.)

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Nancy and I have five granddaughters. Until recently, they were all in South Dakota, all within three hours drive of Pierre. Gradually, of course, the girls grew up, left high school for college in other towns, finished college, married and became more and more involved in their own lives, in other, sometimes distant, cities. But we had many, many occasions with each of them before their worlds expanded and their adventures grew bolder.

In that sense, having grandchildren is kind of like having children. While they were young, our children were at home, of course. We spent a world of time together, went to all sorts of activities and events. Eventually, they grew older and headed for college. We shared fewer times together and we had to make a greater effort to spend time with each of the kids. When we did have time together, we marveled at the amazing and exciting things they were doing with their lives and we readily accepted into our lives their new friends and, uh, significant others, later spouses, then children of their own.

That was as it should be. Nobody wants to raise a child who, when high-school commencement is over, never leaves home. The Austin Lounge Lizards did a song, “40 Years Old and I’m Livin’ in My Mom’s Garage.’’ It was a regional hit, I guess, and it wasn’t reality. I mean, yeah, as parents, we sometimes maybe find ourselves thinking we wish our kids never had to leave. But we know that isn’t the natural order of things. Kids come to you, they grow with you and then they grow more on their own, because as Gibran said, “Life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.’’

As hard as you try -- and Nancy made sure we did try -- you can’t be with your growing children all the time. While our kids were growing up, Nancy and I had full-time jobs. We got to a bunch of our kids’ events -- Nancy more than I -- but we had the distractions of job and our own events and finances and raking leaves and stuff like that. Most places a person works say they’re family friendly, but “get that report to me by morning,’’ no matter if you have Scouts or Little League or ballet this evening.

With grandkids, in our case, for sure, we can pay almost undivided attention to their world when we’re together. There’s been an unwritten rule that if it won’t hurt them and if it isn’t something their parents forbid, it’s good to go at the grandparents’ place. In another time, that was called spoiling, and, yes, we do it, every chance we get.

That isn’t the real world. We know it. The granddaughters know it. But it makes them happy. That makes us happy. Cliché-makers call that a “win-win.’’ Seems to me, the more often the old folks and the grandkids are happy, the better the world is.

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