Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

Grandparents do make a difference - 22

June 2011


Each month we bring you this special column on grandparenting written by our expert contributor Jeanne Davis.  

This month:- What Does it Mean to be a Grandparent?

If you have a subject you would like covered by Jeanne, please email us at: 


What Does it Mean to be a Grandparent?

For several years now contests to choose a Grandparent of the Year are held across the UK and throughout the US. There are many worthy contestants, each having a personal story to tell. The winner of last year’s US contest talked about the grand- parenting lessons she learned from her mother and how she’s passing them on to her two-year-old grandson. A grandfather crowned UK Grandparent of the Year was nominated by his 13-year-old grandchildren who both have health difficulties related to cerebral palsy. He has tirelessly helped to look after them and their mother since they were born.

The Grandparent I Want to Be

This is what Pam Payne from Ironton, Ohio wrote in her prize-winning essay. “I am a grandmother of a two-year-old boy and I watch my grandson through the day while my daughter works. I want to be a grandmother that my grandson, Wade, will remember and be able to tell his children and grandchildren about in the many years to come. When I think about a wonderful grandparent, I think about my mother, who passed away from cancer thirteen years ago. I want to follow in her footsteps and be the most wonderful grandparent that a child can have.

My mother had four grandchildren. Each Sunday was spent on her farm with “Granny” devoting her day to the kids. She never had a harsh word for the children, even if they did things that she did not approve of. Granny was only capable of giving smiles, hugs and kisses. The kids could not wait to go to Granny’s house each week for new adventures. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she chose not to take chemotherapy. She wanted to spend her last days with her family doing what she did best; giving love. She would take pain medication when necessary, but not enough to affect her time with the kids.

Sundays then became a time for my sister and I to cook supper, while Granny only visited with the kids. She was not able to do the things that she used to do with them, like going outside to let them climb the apple tree, seeing how high they could swing on the old porch swing or hiking around the pasture collecting buckeyes. But she was still able to sit with them and read them stories, play games and just talk to them.

Even now after thirteen years without Granny, many hours are spent with my father on that same farm looking at old photo albums and remembering the times spent with Granny. When my grandson was born I didn’t have to think about what he would call me. I want to be that special “Granny” in his life that will give him memories he can then pass on to his family with love.

Granddad Wins Grandparent of the Year

George Birkett of Camforth, Lancashire was nominated by his 13-year-old grandchildren. They both suffer from cerebral palsy. Mr. Birkett has supported them and their mother since they were born. This is what they say about their granddad.

Granddaughter Samantha, with whom he shares a love of Harry Potter, said, “He supports us 100 percent and is always there for us. He is the best granddad in the whole wide world.”

Grandson Thomas is in a wheelchair and as he gets older it is difficult for his mother to lift him so Mr. Birkett stays every night to help him in and out of the bed. Thomas says they share a love of snooker and Manchester City football club.

When the award was announced Mr. Birkett said, “I’m over the moon and so was Thomas. When I was announced he burst into tears.”

“The way I see it Thomas has done far more for me than I have ever done for him.

I help him but what he gives me I can’t put into words.”

What I’m Really Thinking: The Grandma

Though this anonymous Grandma was not a contest entrant, her thoughts which appeared in the Guardian Weekend last year, deserve a hearing.

“I used to be a person – a real person, a wage earner. I had a job, a responsible one, too. I did things people noticed. Now I am an unpaid baby sitter, a changer of nappies, a reader of bedtime stories; expected to drop everything, cancel friends’ visits, reschedule holidays, abandon my social life and give up evening classes to look after my grandchildren.

I have to admit, nothing beats the thrill I feel when they spot me – their faces light up and they yell, “Grandma’s here!” I do love them dearly, and enjoy their company, but when I’ve looked after them for several days in a row, I wonder whether I have a life of my own any more. Even they seem to see me as a willing slave, waiting in the wings to meet them from school, entertain them and listen to the delightful minutiae of their lives.

When I was a teacher, people respected me. As soon as I retired, I became a non-person. Now, when strangers ask me what I do, I watch their eyes glaze over. Isn’t it curious that no one cares what you used to do? A lifetime helping shape the minds of tomorrow’s adults – it fades to nothing.

But then I wonder, did I devote so much of my time to teaching just to boost my own ego? Is that why I feel so bereft now? I spent my whole life educating thousands of children, and now I’ve dwindled into just a “grandma”. I don’t want to be paid for my services – I don’t need the money – but I wouldn’t mind being appreciated for what I do, and who I am.”

What does it mean to you to be a grandparent? Write to us at: 

Bookmark This Share on Facebook Receive more like this


Jeanne DavisTell us your experience of being a grandparent

Want to comment on this article or ask other laterlife visitors a question?

Then visit the comment section of the Later Lifestyle Network, click on the 'Discussion Tab' (you can't see this until you are logged in) and create a new topic or add your views to an existing one. 

feeling Good

Feeling Good

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also associated regular columns of a more specialist nature such as Healthwise, Gardener's Diary, our regular IT question and answer section called YoucandoIT and there's also 'It could be you' by Maggi Stamp laterlife's counsellor on human relationships. 

Looking to the future

Looking to the future

Tell us about what you would like to see here on in the future or any changes you would like to see. Just email

Latest articles

To view indexes to previous articles click on laterlife interest index. To search for articles about a certain topic, use the site search feature at the top right of the page.
Back to Laterlife Today

Visit our Pre-retirement Courses section here on laterlife or our dedicated Retirement Courses site


Advertise on