7 Lessons My Granddaughters Taught Me
Turns out our children's children make excellent teachers for all of us
“Now you know how I feel about you.”
Words I whispered to each of my children as they gazed at their own newborns. A shared emotional experience that acknowledges a deep understanding felt for the first time.
And a profound moment of both letting go and letting in a love that defies description. As a grandparent, it’s a letting go, because your child instantly and instinctively prioritizes their new family over you. Yet it’s also letting in a new life that becomes the center of your world.
That special grandchild love planted me right into new territory. I already knew that when it comes to the secrets of life, our children are our teachers. We parents only rule when it comes to the ABC’s, counting, and nursery rhymes. Children show us who we really are and all the good we have within — unconditional love, selflessness, and a joy so deep it could only come from the soul. What more could grandchildren possibly teach me that my children did not?
Actually, quite a lot! Here are my top seven new lessons learned, compliments of my two granddaughters:
1. Be Assured
Everyone questions their choices in life at one point or another. “Should I have gone this way or that way? Should I have chosen A or B? Should I have moved here or there?” But something remarkable happens when you look into your grandchild’s eyes. It’s a certainty that every decision you ever made in your long life must have been the right one or else this child wouldn’t exist. So be assured that whatever path you walked down was the right one. No more lamenting about the past; let go of all the coulda-shoulda-wouldas. Fully accept that your choices, actions — and even your mistakes — were all necessary to get you here, now, with them.
2. Be Present
Ironically, becoming parents happens in the most pressure-cooker time of life, so being fully present with children is incredibly hard. To truly be in the moment requires no distractions — impossible when families are growing, households need running, and careers are building to support it all. Every memory from my own early family days brings with it a feeling of being time-crunched and drained. Ah, but now. Although I still work, I can turn everything off much more easily than I could ever do as a parent. Being wholly there makes my girls feel as if nothing else matters but them. And this taught me the wonder and power of complete focus.
3. Be Wise
I now clearly see that I have — along with every other grandparent — something that wasn’t fully formed when I was a parent. Perspective. All the extra years have been broadening, stretching, and filling us with more profound thoughts than we’ve ever had. When you’re in the weeds of something — as all new parents are — it’s so hard to see the big picture. But from our vantage point now, we have clarity and know what matters and what doesn’t. This wisdom just cannot be matched by younger generations, and it’s our job to share what we know — in a way that others will receive and absorb it — so that the little ones can benefit from our vast experience.
4. Be Accepting
My children accepted everything about me, but it was a time before gravity took hold and a few lines, spider veins, and crinkles appeared. My granddaughters may notice, but they don’t care one bit. They accept all of me, just as I am. And the flipside is also true: grandparents are not caught up with their grandchildren being a reflection of themselves. It’s easier to see these little people as amazing individuals. We love them as unconditionally as they love us. Not great at soccer? Who cares? Math challenged? It’ll all work out. As their cheerleaders-in-chief, we accept them for who they are, meet them where they are, and help them get to the next level.
5. Be Optimistic
Nothing can turn even the most pessimistic person around like new beginnings. And nothing screams new beginnings more than a grandchild. Suddenly, you can step back in time and move forward at the same time! It’s a second chance, a new lease, a clean slate — and there’s nothing quite like that feeling. Even though I’m an optimist at heart, a grandchild has taught me uber-optimism, boosted even higher because we have them only some of the time. Like intermittent fasting, the breaks we have from the minutia of the day-to-day are healthy! And this structure makes it so much easier to see the world in a new, positive way and maintain a sense of wonder.
6. Be Playful
Having a grandchild taught me how to really let loose and match their wild creativity. And to sync-up with their dreams and universes where anything is possible, you need to unleash your inner child as you’ve never done before. Sometimes the weight of being a proper parent — or the responsibility of setting the right example — causes caregivers to hold back. But as you get older, you truly don’t care what anyone thinks. Release any inhibitions that are in the way between you and crazy dance parties or slime unicorn oceans. My role is to inspire their imaginations and fuel their creativity, and that assignment has been absolutely magical, freeing, and liberating for me.
7. Be Curious
Not only did having grandchildren amp-up playtime, but being around young ones upped my natural curiosity. Considering both their futures and the world around them now, grandparents become more curious — about everything — than we’ve ever been. I find myself researching topics, from emotional wellness and growth to arts and crafts. I search for ways to establish new traditions while I think about how I can provide new shared experiences that expand their horizons. Grandchildren are curious about absolutely everything, and we need to be too!
Deborah Burns loves inspiring others to see possibilities and opportunities. Connecting the dots and building ideas is her hallmark, whether as a media chief innovation officer, a consultant helping companies invent and reinvent, or as the author of two award-winning books: ”Authorize It! Think Like a Writer to Win at Work & Life” and “Saturday’s Child.” Her latest book—and third genre—is “THE 7 DAYS: A Classic Nursery Rhyme Made New.” As Burns reinvents the rhyme that inspired “Saturday’s Child’s” title, “THE 7 DAYS” connects the dots in her own life and introduces children t