Grandparenting isnâ??t easy

Grandparenting isnâ??t easy

In the past few years, I have developed a deep respect for grandparents.

Let me say right up front, I am not a grandparent and never will be. The reason is simple, if you have no kids you canâ??t be a grandparent. Itâ??s all biological.

Marriage can add the word â??stepâ? to many terms â?? step-father, step-mother and I suppose step-grand whatever.

Since I am not married I canâ??t adopt those endearing terms.

So suffice it to say that the last few years I have taken on an ever-increasing role of surrogate grandparent or as we laugh about in our household â??fake grandpa.â?

You see, my significant other Sue is a grandmother to a 14-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. That alone certainly does not make me a fake or surrogate grandfather.

Several years ago, I attended elementary school graduation for the boy and congratulated him on his next educational step to adulthood. I have attended elementary school plays and graduation of the granddaughter from fourth to fifth grade since mom, dad and grandmother had to work.

When the boy started playing Culpeper Football Association games on Saturday, guess where I found myself? Yep, there I was sitting on the sidelines watching and cheering for the Yellow Jackets. I was rooting for Sueâ??s grandson to do well and for his team to win.

Now, I find myself occasionally picking him up JV football practice at Culpeper County High School. The games will follow next month. And, unless we have something else planned, I imagine Sue and I will be there cheering.

Sueâ??s granddaughter is another story. Since she is younger than her brother and female, it seems that grandparents are more protective. Sue is no exception.

With money tight, the girlâ??s mom tried to cut costs by reducing the time her daughter spent in day care. On her way to work out of town, she would drop her daughter off for day care at elementary school 15 minutes before students are scheduled to arrive – cha-ching, a day care charge.

In the afternoons, the youngster would sit for almost an hour or two before either Sue or her mom picked her up. With Sue working 10- to 12-hour days, the girl spent even more time in day care until I was drafted.

So last year about 3 p.m., I sat in a line of cars with anxious parents and grandparents picking up kids. I proudly displayed a light blue placard with 55 printed in big letters. Sueâ??s granddaughter was now a number.

I spent so much time picking up the girl that the teachers would wave me off and call out number 55 into the portable radio almost before I held the placard up.

A short ride later and we were home at my house – time for homework. She is really good about doing her homework first before getting a snack or watching TV.

Of course, as a â??fake grandparentâ? I was asked to help with homework. Some of the material fourth- and fifth-graders learn really taxes me. I havenâ??t seen this stuff in more than half a century. If I didnâ??t know it then, how in the world am I to know it now and help someone as well? Life is not easy.

Now donâ??t get wrong. She is smart, scary smart. However, like anyone she gets frustrated sometimes when trying to get the correct answer and quickly. So through the pouting and whining, I try to get her to think the exercise through to reach the correct answer. Most times it works.

This year, day care is no more. Her mom drops her off at my house where she waits for the bus.

The first day of school, she fretted about not knowing anyone on the bus. She rarely rode the bus before. She was fine and knew kids.

Each morning, she grabs our Yorkie named Zoey and waits for the bus to round the corner. Her bus driver is wonderful and friendly. The driver and kids think Zoey is so cute. The dog already knows she is cute. A busload of kids isnâ??t helping.

After school, the perky 10-year-old hops off the bus and comes into the house ready to do homework. Zoey squeals and yips excitedly, happy to see her. Then it is snack time and the daily dog walk, with a stop at the neighborhood playground where she gets on the swing.

The other day, I had to leave early for an assignment, but she is fine at the house alone, with Zoey and the cat Madison to keep her company. They do need supervision, after all. However, she wanted to go to the playground alone. I balked and didnâ??t think that was a good idea. To say she wasnâ??t happy is an understatement. I quickly realized the protective grandparent mode kicked in.

After several years, I am learning what grandparents actually go through. I never fully understood or appreciated the role they play, as I never really knew mine.

Itâ??s an adjustment, but not a bad one.

Sueâ??s granddaughter is a joy to hang with. Did I say that?

Sometimes she hugs my waist tightly and tells me to lower my head so she can whisper, â??I love youâ? in my ear. Well, all you grandparents know how that makes you feel.

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at