There is (arguably) no occasion more momentous than becoming a parent, except, perhaps, becoming a grandparent.
In honour of National Grandparents Day, on Sept. 9, the Free Press spoke with local grandparents to gain insight into the wealth of life experience acquired by impacting two generations.
For Dennis and Lori Smith, that experience includes eight children and 17 grandchildren.
“I always say to people, ‘If I had known it would be this good, I’d have had ‘em first,’” Dennis laughed as he spoke about the joys of becoming a grandfather, 17 times over.
Their kids aren’t finished having children yet, so the Smiths said the number of grandchildren is bound to increase, something Lori is especially happy about.
“I just love having the babies around, I don’t know, I just love them. I would have had babies my entire life, if I could have just always kept having babies,” she said.
When asked whether their relationship with their children changed once they became parents, they both immediately responded, “Oh, yeah.”
Lori elaborated to say, “They look at you differently, I think, because now they know what you went through.”
The biggest thing the couple has learned, and are watching their children learn, is the importance of taking time to spend with your family.
When you’re building a family and a career simultaneously, they said finding a balance can be a challenge as weeks quickly turn into months.
Lori offered some helpful advice for making every moment count with the kids.
“If you just spend five or 10 minutes in their world, oh, my gosh, it’s like you just spent a whole week with them, it’s all they talk about. So it’s a big deal to just find out what each one likes and just spend that little bit of time talking about that or doing that with them. It means so much to them. They just light up.”
Ken and Susan Fryer mirrored the Smiths sentiments about quality time. They said they love when they get to visit with their three grandchildren.
Ken takes them fishing and ATVing while Susan makes crafts with them. They said they’ve also been taking their grandkids camping since the first one was only six months old.
Susan teared up as she recalled the most thrilling part about becoming a grandparent, hearing her daughter call her best friend from the hospital to announce, “I’m a mom!”
Susan offered up her own advice for parents, “Be their parent. Don’t be their friend. The friendship will grow when they move out of the house, really, it changes completely. If you’re a parent first, you’re going to give them a great foundation to start with. If you’re their friend, you’re going to have trouble the rest of your life.”
Watching her children become parents, Susan said she feels satisfied they did a good job raising them.
For Dorothy Kirkland, spending time with her family isn’t always an option because of distance.
Even still, she said she enjoys the times they visit and makes sure to make them feel welcome and special.
She has three children, five grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren and she said it gives her “a certain amount of pride” to have been a part of three generations of lives.
She recently watched one of her great grandchildren graduate highschool and said it was a “very special” moment.
As a great grandmother, her advice to new grandparents is to love the kids even if you don’t agree with their style of parenting.
“You have to sort of let them experience some hurts, too, and disappointments,” so they can learn from those experiences.
“And praying for them, that’s my part as a great grandma and a grandma.”