Baby boomers reinventing the meaning of grandparents

Baby Boomer Renee Fisher is in an odd position: when she remarried, she made her new husband a father, then a grandfather, for the very first time. It’s happening more and more. She writes for BoomerCafé about what it’s like becoming a grandfather … without ever having been a father.

In 2006, Dan was living in a high-rise condo in Washington DC. He was single, with no children and no pets. I was living in a detached house across the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia. I was divorced. I had three grown children and a cat.

We got married, and Dan moved into my house, but that was only a small change, with bigger ones — much, much bigger — to come. One year after we married, my daughter married and then, in 2009, my grandson Jonah was born. Simon followed in 2011. The plan is for another child to follow. My older son married in 2009, and they are due to have their first child this month. My younger son also plans to marry and have children.

Dan and Renee at home in Arlington, Virginia.

Dan and Renee at home in Arlington, Virginia.

What all this means is, in the last seven years, the terrain of Dan’s life changed in a way comparable to that of the land inhabited by dinosaurs when the Ice Age hit. For a while, he wasn’t quite sure he would survive. Fortunately for me and for him and for my children and grandchildren, he adjusted better than the dinosaurs did.

Dan learned very quickly what my priorities were, and it came the first time we were visiting friends in Florida. We were seated at a restaurant for lunch, and had just enough time to look over the menu and decide what we were going to have, when my cell phone rang. It was my daughter, living then in London, with her baby. Because of the time difference and because of the baby’s schedule, it wasn’t always easy to connect. Now, she wanted to Skype, because it was 5 PM there and Jonah was in the bath. I looked at Dan and said, “I think I have to go.” “Say no more,” he answered, and he stood up.

I now can see how tough it can be to flip into step-fatherhood and grandfatherhood without ever having been a father. When my kids are around, Dan sometimes goes off for a short privacy break. The activity and noise level are more than he’s used to. At the dinner table, when one or more of the kids is in town and the conversation turns to video games, indie bands, and fantasy football, I notice that Dan gets quiet. He refused to make baby talk with either Jonah or Simon, and he became annoyed when he used to hear me doing so on Skype. I joke that he’s marking time until Jonah and Simon can enjoy a glass of wine with him and discuss world affairs.

Renee Fisher, author and writer.

Renee Fisher, author and writer.

But the truth is that Dan keeps a photo of Jonah and Simon as his screen saver, and when Jonah would jump into his lap and now Simon does the same, he melts. The other truth is, Dan thinks my own kids are almost as amazing as I do. I think that might be a little bit understandable, as he never had to experience the boys wrestling under the dining room table while a meal was in progress. And he never had to watch my daughter taunting her older brother into a screaming rage.

The top inanimate love of Dan’s life has always been his sailboat. And naming his sailboat has always been a huge big deal with him. This year, he bought a new boat. He named it JoSimon.

The bottom line is that slowly, very slowly, Dan is taking on a role he never thought would be his. And nobody is more surprised (or, I suspect, delighted) than he is. Which delights this baby boomer just as much!

3 Comments

  1. Your experience so closely resembles mine. After two disastrous marriages ended because both men treated my kids poorly, I was so cautious this last time and my priorities were clear. And you’re so right about marrying someone who has never experienced the joys of a noisy and busy house.
    I can tell you the greatest joy I have is hearing my (formerly childless) husband brag about HIS grandchildren and also hear my kids talk about how much my husband has helped and influenced them. Ahhh, time to sit back and enjoy!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Barbara. I was quite hesitant, at first, to date anyone who hadn’t been married and had children. After getting to know Dan, my admiration for him overrode my hesitation. He is still getting used to being a part of a growing family (three kids/three spouses/three grandchildren so far). He loves my kids and is proud of who they are and how they live their lives. But I’m always respectful of his needing “down time,” something I don’t need much of, after having been on Mom Time for so many years. All in all, we work things out, and my kids/their spouses/the grandchildren are richer for it.

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