Trying to Put Into Words What it Means to Be a Grandparent

I struggled with writing this blog for a long time. As a writer, it is my job to put the impossible into words. Thinking back to my long journalism career with the Houston Chronicle (formerly the number 4 largest city daily newspaper) and some stories I was assigned, sometimes I would sit at the keyboard and ponder how I could possibly put my thoughts into intelligent and readable words. This was usually the case in a complex medical procedure or disease story that I would have to write up after doing interviews and research. Explaining complex things for the layman was my specialty, but there were times when I wondered if my thoughts could be translated to the keyboard.

I was recently gushing over lunch with a friend over my grandchildren and I was FINALLY able to put into words how I felt. My friend pounced on my words and said, EXACTLY!!” There are so many of us that get so overcome with emotion, that the soaring, overarching, larger-than-love type of love for grandchildren cannot be adequately described and not even in this blog attempt. Sometimes smiles say it all in those cases.

The following was how I explained my feelings – so calling all grandparents out there to affirm, add to, or offer something more descriptive in words:

The love I feel for my grandchildren consumes and expands my heart and mind until I think I am absolutely going to explode from the all-consuming feeling. I think that never before has my cup overflowed with such overwhelming love until this time in my life. As a young mother, I would have never ever believed I could ever be more in love with little people than with my own children, but somehow I was able to analyze the difference between that experience and being a grandparent. My friend agreed with my analysis.

When I parented, I was filled with love, with pride, and with joy for my children, yet it was always weighed down with Worry, Responsibility, and the full time job that it was. It was not a free form love. It was a very highly structured daily type of love and devotion. Sure, every once in a while, we parents could sit back, rest on our laurels and just enjoy our little people with swelled hearts – but the day to day reality is very different than being a grandparent. It was overwhelming love tempered by rules, discipline, making children unhappy at times when a decision was made they disagreed with, and there was always a worry in my neurotic mind: was I doing enough?

And then you let your children leave your nest to let them fly on their own. Your love for them is cemented in your heart but their lives become separate. Still, you would defend them to death, take a bullet for them, and you continue to love them beyond measure.

Now as a grandparent, it is all about the raw emotions of the love, with leaving the worry, responsibility and daily job to their own parents.

Let me now explain that I am not your average lovey-dovey type person. I am larger than life in that department. When I love, I love HUGE! My description is best said as a sentimental, gushy, hugging, kissing, demonstrative type of person.

Now with grandchildren, I can’t reign in my emotions. Each photo, every detail of my grandchildren’s growth sends me over the moon in all consuming LOVE.

My son recently told me that as great of a parent that I was in his opinion, that I am an even better “Bubbie.” (their grandparent term for me.)

Why is that? At first I was a bit taken aback, but then again, I was a fairly strict and by-the-book parent.

What my son sees is that I can finally do that thing called “unconditional love.” As a parent, my love was unconditional but had limits where discipline or punishment was doled out, obscuring the love behind it. (Yes, good parenting requires CONDITIONS!)

As a Bubbie, I can spoil them, offer them dessert with dinner, (actually that is a thing that is acceptable now anyway but certainly was NOT in my day) and play with them to enjoy their personalities without worrying about heavy responsibility that is present in parenting.

When I see them, I can wrap them in my arms and give them a five full minute hug and smother them with kisses and “I love yous” because now, that is my job. Sure I assist with babysitting and some care, but as the saying goes, I get to give them BACK.

I get to revel in their milestones without worrying about whether they are age-appropriate. I get to brag and show off their photos to other grandparents who understand that same love and pride.

These little humans made in love by our children mean the absolute world to me, and I have lately wrapped my universe around them. They bring enormous joy and shield me from other disappointing realities of life and being an aging adult.

When they are not in my presence, I stare at photos and marvel at their beauty. Children really are a work of beauty. Even if they are not in my presence, I review over and over in my mind something funny or clever one of them said, or something cute that they did.

Even more heart-melting is when those toddlers get to the age where they KNOW my deep love, and they can say to me, “I love you Bubbie.”

I hope to always have a special relationship with that rare and consuming love with each and every one of my grandchildren.

By the way, I have seven grandchildren – four local, and three long distance. And I love every one of them unconditionally – they will grow up knowing that I am in their life and there for them no matter what.

This is blog is dedicated to (age order) blond haired nature and beach-loving beauty Leona. I am so lucky I get to enjoy my special beach place with her each year. We create such special memories there.

And to Everleigh, the gorgeous curly blonde with honesty, spunkiness and smarts. I try to go to as many of her events as possible even though she lives out of town so she will know she is loved so much.

And to Drew, my gorgeous sensitive and smart Disney loving boy who loves being with me as much as I love being with him.

And to Wesley, my little bundle of hugs and love and happiness and precious good looks with a killer smile, who also needs his regular Bubbie time.

And to Harper, my adorable, affectionate, and sweet cuddle-bundle who is non-stop smiles and joy whenever we are around each other.

And to Lucy, my fiesty, piercing blue-eyed, observant, beautiful toddler who is already forming such a sweet relationship with me.

And to gorgeous Violet Margot, our latest and such a special addition to our family who I am daily obsessing over and need my frequent visit fixes to see her rapid development. She is not even five months old, and she has full conversations with me – I talk, and she babbles back. (Named for my late Dad.)

Have I mentioned how gorgeous they all are? And smart? And precious?

Have I mentioned how grateful I am for each and every one of them?

Here is a rare family photo of all of us together. The only problem with large group photos is that it is hard to capture everyone’s personality, beautiful looks, and real smiles at the same time.

Let me hear from you.


  • Mazel tov on this big beautiful family!
    My first grandchild will be born at the end of Oct. or beginning of November! She’s a girl, and we have already been oohing and ahhing over her pictures in the womb. Hard to believe that her head is now as big as her whole body was in the first picture! We can already see a face there, a little tured up nose, and wide curious eyes.
    I get what you are saying about grandchildren. We already love ours.

  • Beautiful family Arlene!! You are blessed!! I loved the blog!!

  • sarah rousso lascar

    Your words say exactly my feelings for my grandchildren. It’s a different relationship, even though I loved spending time with my children. Especially now during summer vacations. We would be together all day, enjoying more relaxed schedule, lots of fun trips lots of pool day, and library visits, trips around Houston, Texas, and a vacation to visit family abroad. Grandchildren relationships are more playmate oriented. I spend time playing with the kids. Sometimes my grandson couldn’t figure out whether an adult like his parents, or a kid like his playmates at school. When he was younger, and declared the leader, I would follow him everywhere, even crawling under his easel. On his visit to Houston, in April, he loved being home, and slept on the pillow I sewed for him. Now at almost 5 years old he understands the relationship between his mother and I, and he comes home here to his house. Of course, I could keep writing about the other three grandchildren I have, they are all special diamonds that shine and sparkle, keeping me on my toes. And yes, when you see me, I will share my pictures, which I don’t post online. See you at the pool!

  • Arlene, fantastic description of the greatest “job” I’ve ever held. What a blessing, you have four nearby! And isn’t it wonderful you have technology to keep in touch?! My almost two year old called me today and walked around the house, making me seasick, carrying the phone whilst FaceTiming, but I loved every minute! I am Mimi to eight and they all live far away – Switzerland, Pennsylvania and Virginia!
    By the way, great picture, that must have been hard to get everyone looking at the same time! Thanks for sharing!

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