Some time ago, due to extremely sad circumstances, friends of mine, who were in their mid 60s, were suddenly having to parent two girls aged 6 and 8 years. They have been terrific grandparents to these two gorgeous girls and in their time they were also great parents to their own children but becoming parents again in later life was a whole new ball game. However as they eased into retirement, enjoying their new-found freedom, they were suddenly thrust back into parenthood full time. I don’t mean for the odd day and night or even a week, I mean full time.
Men can continue to father children well into their 80s however women stop being able to produce babies in their 40s – it is nature’s way of planning ahead. Men in their 70s and 80s probably leave the everyday parenting to the young mothers and dip in and out when it suits them so are happy to parent children in later life. I did read that Ronnie Wood, aged 69 years, was happily changing his new-born twin daughters’ nappies but I hope he realises that there are a lot more minefields ahead. However we, as women, do not tend to have the energy levels to care, full time, for children in our 60s. Being a grandparent is a wonderful relationship but you do get to hand the children back. However this was not an option, in the case of my friends, and so they had to throw themselves into becoming parents again and find the energy to cope.
One of the obvious drawbacks is that my girlfriend has not had so much time for her friends as she is doing school runs, helping with homework, and generally running around after two gregarious young girls. However recently both girls, now aged 10 and 12 yrs, were on school trips for a few days so my girlfriend (gf) immediately booked to catch up with her friends again. We were intrigued to find out how it was all going.
Apart from all the obvious problems this situation of becoming parents again has thrown up, such as energy levels, fitness (their own not their granddaughters) school work (Google is a godsend), mother’s talk at the school gates, she explained that there have been a couple of other issues that have raised their head.
Her first discovery was how it has all changed with after school entertaining. There are now children with nut allergies, who are gluten intolerant, or who demand sugar-free diets. This was a minefield for my girlfriend. Gone are the days when your child brings a friend home from school and you give them a sandwich, some biscuits and despatch them into the garden to play. Mothers ring beforehand to tell her what their children can or cannot eat. One parent even told her that her child cannot wear wellies as she has a rubber intolerance.
Luckily the child with the nut allergy came with her own food as my gf’s kitchen was not cleared as a nut-free zone. However this did not solve all the problems as after tea her granddaughter wanted to go and feed their ducks with her friend. My gF, having been so alarmed by the mother of this child with stories of how her child could have an anaphylactic shock and then my gf must administer an adrenaline injection (provided in the child’s bum bag that she carries at all times) and then call an ambulance. My gf was so petrified she found herself ringing the manufacturers of the duck food to see if this had been prepared in a nut free factory. Even though they were sure it had not been prepared near any nuts, the lady on the phone and my gf decided that duck feeding should be given a miss and maybe watching some television was safer. As my gf said it must be a nightmare for the parents of this child to take them anywhere but what could they do in order to give their child a normal upbringing. But where have all these allergies come from? I did not know one child with a nut allergy when my children were growing up so what has happened in the meantime?
As for the child, who her mother declared must have a sugar-free diet. That instruction was ignored by my gf and the child in question hit the sweet tin like a heat-seeking missile. She went home with a huge sugar high which my gf explained to the questioning mother as probably just over-excitement at having such a fun time. A wink was exchanged between my gf and the visiting child.
We all agreed that our kids ate sugary foods when they were young and they still had their own teeth and were not obese – everything in moderation was the chant of our generation of parents. My gf has warned her granddaughters off being friends with the vegan child as she cannot cope with that one and anyway it is in direct contravention with the child with the nut allergy. We also decided that the the vegan child would probably not be able to feed the ducks so overall the ducks were not having a great time with her granddaughters’ friends.
The other major change in becoming parents now, that is a complete minefield for my friends, is technology. My friends are quite techie, they have computers and iPhones and even an iPad. They can record multiple programmes on their TV using SkyQ, though even the ducks could operate that one! However it was not the operating of the technology that is a problem it is how the young use it. Cyberbullying is a whole new world to all of us. Bullying has been about since time began – humans can be so nasty. However in our day we just told our children to avoid the school bully whilst at school and, when they came home, it was to their sanctuary as the bully had no way of contacting them. Nowadays one bully on a social media site attracts others like a magnet and then as a force they can make someone’s life living hell. Her younger granddaughter had such an experience and my gf was all for facing off the parent of the known bully but apparently that is not allowed, the teacher explained. ‘We have to tread carefully.’ That was like a red rag to a bull with my gf as her attitude was that the bully was not ‘treading lightly’ so treat like with like. We all know that bullies are cowards beneath their aggressive exterior.
Next major problem for becoming parents in your 60s is ‘sexting’ – apparently that is to come but quite soon as sex rears its ugly head at about 12 years. So my gf will worry that her gorgeous duck-feeding, pony-loving granddaughters may be sending naked pictures of themselves to some demanding (older) boy in an attempt to remain popular. Grandfather is checking out the local college to see if there are any advanced technology courses so that he can learn how to put parental controls on his granddaughters’ iPhones, iPads and laptops when they eventually get them. Of course the answer is not to let them have all of this technology but then they would be tormented and bullied as the ‘Shaker children’ – apparently that is a thing if you aren’t allowed a mobile phone by 10 years old. My gf took said child aside, against all school protocol, and told this particular name-calling idiot that had he thought it might be that they could not afford to buy their 10 yr old granddaughter an iPhone X similar to the one he owned? I hope he doesn’t know that the girls’ grandfather had only just progressed from a Nokia 6310 to an iPhone when his eldest granddaughter got her first mobile phone. The upgrade was because his granddaughter wanted to send him pictures, something he had never previously had the need for. He had only ever used his mobile phone to tell his wife he would be late home from golf or once when he got to the supermarket and did not know where to look for goji berries (a snack that one of his granddaughters’ friends was allowed).
So all in all my friends are on a serious learning curve, but one that is so fast it is hard to keep up with. Did they enjoy becoming parents again I asked? Their reply was that as they never had a choice and no time to even consider and plan for it so they had to love it. And who couldn’t love these two girls who were forcing their grandparents into the 21st century but giving them so much fun and love along the way. I have to admire them and when I have grandchildren of that age I know who I will be going to for advice!
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