Six areas of wisdom from a father turned grandfather

Suki and first grandbaby take a nap

Suki and first grandbaby take a nap

The guest blog this week is brought to you by Suki. Born and bred in England, his close friends and family called him Sac (like Sac’s Fifth Avenue). But now he considers himself a Detroiter, Motorcity Warrior and Michigan is home. He’s a proud grandfather who loves life and his fabulous family more than anything. In his free time Suki likes to run in nature, compete in races and has recently taken up swimming. On a daily basis you will find him cooking up creative cuisines as he jamz to Punjabi beats. (Imagine Gurdas Mann meets Jaime Oliver). When he’s not at the gym or kitchen/dance floor, you will find Suki gardening or in the living room commentating to a European soccer match. And if you can’t find him there, then contact his kids or grandkids, because he is always finding an excuse to travel and visit them around the world.

Suki's first daughter rocking a red frilly dress and smile.

Suki's first daughter rocking a red frilly dress and smile.

After you have gone through the rigors of raising your children, having got them through their education, hopefully pointed them in the right direction of life, you are left with a reflecting on your accomplishment and a feeling of emptiness when they leave home to live their lives.  Did we do it right? Did we succeed in bringing up our children or not?

You are left looking back at those glorious years with the feeling that your best years are now behind you. You are in a place where the next thing you have to look forward to is retirement. Then out of the nowhere, and totally against expectation, life gives you the best gift of all, grandchildren. In a moment your life is transformed.

It was a fall day when my wife and I got the news that my daughter was expecting. I remember that day clearly as it changed our lives. At the time this was the best news imaginable.  We had a feeling of great anticipation of what was to come.  Just like becoming a parent, no one is prepared to become a grandparent.  The way your life changes cannot easily be explained. Suddenly there is this new “thing” in your life that just skyrocketed to the top of your priority list.

When we first saw the live video images of our daughter holding our first grandbaby for the first time we were full of joy. We had that extra spring to our step. It was like nothing you have ever felt before. We, the grandparents, wanted to drop everything and be with our new “shiny golden nugget”.

Although I remember being a parent and being ecstatic at the birth of my children, this feeling of joy, happiness and love are at a different level.  It is really hard to explain.  It is very different to becoming a parent for the first time.  It feels so different being a grandparent to being a parent.  Parents still have the hard work of raising children ahead of them, whereas grandparents have raised their children and are now able to spoil their new babies.

Parents know they have a lot of work ahead of them. Someone once proposed paying “stay at home parents” an annual salary of $110,000. That is the extent of work parents have to do to raise their children. In my opinion, that may actually be a bit on the low side. I have always said that the first two years of a child’s life are the most demanding on parents. Those same first two years are also the most critical as far as the development of a child are concerned. There is no class in school that prepares you for what is required to becoming a parent. No experience in life up to the point of the birth of your first child comes close to preparing you to become a parent.

Bihapi Beach. Montpellier, France

Bihapi Beach. Montpellier, France

Based on life experiences and the lessons I’ve learned as both a parent and grandparent, I encourage future and current parents to do the following:

Press pause, and press it often

Enjoy the time raising your kids. I attest to what everyone agrees on - it will fly by. Time is a funny thing as it seems to go by at different rates at various times of your life. Looking back on the years bringing up our children, it just flew by. This period will be one of the toughest and most rewarding of your life. Don’t be too hard on yourself, soak in the craziness, the fun, the innocence. Enjoy it all. Create memories with your children that will last forever. Be an artist, and help mold the kind of person your child will become. It is, of course, much easier said than done especially if you have more than one toddler to feed, clean, clothe, bathe, and the list goes on. If you do the early years well, you will reap the benefits later in life.

Happy baby. Happy child. Happy adult.

Suki's grandkids

Suki's grandkids

Raise happy children. Instill in a child early in life that happiness comes from within. How to do that is tough in this materialist world. Give your children experiences as opposed to material things. Today it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying toys, gadgets and other ‘things’ to make ourselves happy. We know that does not work. True happiness comes from experiences, such as visiting places, meeting people, playing sports, finding groups that have something in common, listening to music, reading a book, dancing, and most special of all, spending time with family and friends. Do a lot of this and do it often.

Hold tight to the craziest roller coaster of all…life with kids

The sooner you learn life is full of ups and downs the sooner you will get a handle on your life. Remember every situation in life is temporary. We all have highs and lows in life. The key is to enjoy the ride when you are on a high and bear with the lows. Life is really like a roller coaster because some days you feel great and flying through the sky while on others you are down. Guess what? When you are down there is another “up” just around the corner.

Feed your child’s passion

Always teach and guide your children, after all you are their most important role model. Teach them right from wrong and always keep them on an honest track. Find something they love to do and expose them to learn more about that thing.  In life you want to be doing something that you love, so why not make it your career and do it every day. I remember what Malcolm Gladwell says in his book “Outliers”, that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert and it is never too late to start.  (10,000 hours = 10 years times two and a half hours per day of practice).

Walk the walk on values and character

It’s easy to tell your child to be honest, respectful, humble, loyal, and hard-working. It’s more powerful to show them. To me, these are the most important aspects of raising a child. By the way we interact with our partners, our friends and families, the manner in which we manage a challenging situation or person, we are constantly teaching and shaping the foundation upon which our children will grow. Instilling them with strong core values will help prepare them for the real world, and how to lead a life of integrity.

You time = happy parents = Sanity

Raising children is the toughest job you will ever love. It’s love in so many forms: tough love, unconditional love, awe-aspiring love.  However, at times it will feel like there is no time for you. You’ve forgone youre dreams and passions. The role of parent has taken over, and you in other non-parent forms ceases to exist. Well, in my opinion, parents must have time for themselves. Although I believe, parenting is a shared responsibility, with your partner and community, you should always aim for some “me” time. This time away from your children will help you rejuvenate and balance your many roles, and can help alleviate the overwhelming role of ‘parent.’ Everyone needs a break, so do yourself and your family a favor and take a time out. Whether it’s a coffee alone for an hour, or a short 30-minute run to the shop, make it a goal to find some you time.

I know parents are bombarded with advice on daily basis. For me, the points above are important, although I’m sure there’s more. In many ways, it’s not only a guide for parents, but it is a refresher for me as I set example and spend time with my grandkids.

What’s your single most important advice on parenting? What is the most important thing to teach your grandchild? What is the one word that describes how it feels to be a parent or grandparent (I really struggle with this one)?