With the birth of my first grandchild I discovered a new me. I didn’t know I had this grandmother inside me. I didn’t know I would feel like this and how thrilled I would be. I fell head-over-heels in love with my grandchildren and I’ve been rewarded with really special relationships.

Your real usefulness

I always suspected there was a good reason why women live so long after menopause and the end of their fertile lives, so I was fascinated to read a study on female longevity, published in 2004. The authors looked at communities in 18th- and 19th-century Finland and Canada and discovered that women gained two extra grandchildren for every decade they lived beyond the age of 50.

Furthermore, women whose mothers were alive had more babies and at a younger age, and the births were closer together. This goes a long way to supporting my conviction that women are programmed to live beyond menopause to help our children with their children. The same happens in many other animal societies. An elephant family, for example, is led by an older female—a grandmother—on whose wisdom the whole herd depends.

Grandparents are more important now than ever and provide much needed support. In the US, a majority of children receive some care from grandparents

Why grandparents are important

Life in the 21st century is very different to the way those communities lived, but grandparents are more important than ever. At a time when most families need two salaries in order to make ends meet, grandparents provide much needed childcare support. In the US a majority of children receive some care from their grandparents. And by virtue of their age and experience, grandparents can generally be more patient, philosophical, and sympathetic than other caregivers. A grandparent can relieve busy parents and so help support the whole family.

How you feel about being a grandparent

Most mothers and fathers welcome the transition to grandparenthood. Most women long to be a grandma and are thrilled when their first grandchild arrives. But this reaction isn’t universal. I’ve had letters from women who feel it comes too soon, and makes it seem they’re getting old before their time.

kid with grandparents

There’s pleasure to be had from grandchildren that is unique and, in some ways, greater than the love of parents for their children. It’s certainly different and, if you’re lucky, it isn’t interrupted by chores or diluted by cares and worries.

I have found that this very special kind of love can be given free rein because there’s room for patience, for undivided attention, for focus on my grandchild’s needs, and for unconditional love. I can indulge all these feelings because I now have the time and the space in my life.

For me the greatest surprise was how I rediscovered, through my grandchildren, the love I had felt for my own sons when they were babies. This is something we believe has been left behind. But there, with your first grandchild, you experience again the love you thought would never return.

What will you be called?

Each family will come up with their own favorite names for grandparents that everyone likes and feels comfortable with. Your preference should be in the mix and you can influence the outcome by using your favorite name yourself. I always saw myself as Granny, and I found myself saying to everyone “Oh, Granny can do that,” rather than using “I.”

Of course, there may be a family tradition for grandparents to be called Grandma and Grandpa, and Grandad is an option for grandfathers. Then again, there’s Nana for grandmothers.

In families when there is more than one set of grandparents first names are needed to make distinctions. So in two of my children’s families, I’m known as Granny Miri.

What about grandpas?

I’m a great fan of grandpas and so are grandchildren. From an early age babies and children of both genders have a soft spot for the men in the family. It strikes me that this is because, in every family, there’s no shortage of women cooing over and taking care of the babies and children. But now and then babies enjoy the lower tones of men’s voices, the large, firm, masculine hands, and the reassuring smell of male skin.

value of grandparents

As children get older their relationship with Grandpa can become very close and loving. By and large, grandpas are gentle, quiet, and playful—qualities all children warm to. Most grandpas are only too happy to tell their grandchildren stories about when they were young. Grandchildren find this irresistible and will ask for more and more stories. Grandparents generally have more time than dads for rough and tumble games, and if Grandpa’s healthy enough to get down on the floor he’ll be a grandchild’s favorite.