Learning to become a better grandfather

UNITED STATES – When Mr Ted Page became a grandfather in 2014, he wanted to hear other men’s stories, “real experiences that hopefully would guide newcomers”, he recalled.

“We’re shifting into a different part of our lives,” said Mr Page, 63, from Lexington, Massachusetts. “I was trying to picture what it would be like.”

The co-founder of a marketing consulting firm wondered whether it was wise to pass around photos of his grandchildren, at meals with clients. “There’s a bit of a stigma,” he said. “It could be seen as an indication that one is ready for the pasture.”

As he searched the Web for information about this new role, he found a dozen blogs where grandmothers were chatting, seeking advice and exchanging ideas.

But blogs for grandfathers? None.

So, he started Good Grandpa, where he ruminates about things like his own grandfather’s wisdom and the height markings on a kitchen wall that is about to undergo renovation.

Mr Greg Payne, 53, an information technology project manager in suburban Atlanta, encountered the same void when his first grandchild was born four years ago.

After struggling to find books about grandfathering, he turned to movies and television, but came up empty-handed, apart from the dispiriting 2013 movie Bad Grandpa, featuring a lecherous alcoholic who neglects an eight-year-old.

In popular culture, “grandfathers typically are checked out”, Mr Payne said. He started the Cool Grandpa podcast in 2020 because “there is so much more to say about the relationship”.

Grandfathers are often excluded from societal narratives about relationships between generations, somehow secondary to grandmothers. There is limited recent research about grandfathering, and the cultural expectations for how grandfathers should behave are hazy.

“You get these gendered stereotypes,” said sociologist Robin Mann at Bangor University in Wales, who studies the way men in Britain approach grandparenting and how it relates to masculinity later in life. “Grandfathers themselves often see the role as feminised – a woman’s role.”

Some men, like Mr George Schweitzer, a retired media executive in New York, view the role as a second chance.

When his three daughters were young, Mr Schweitzer, now 71, was ascending the corporate ladder. He made it a point to come home in time for their evening routines, but “I’d lie on their beds to read to them and fall asleep before they did”, he said.

Now, Mr Schweitzer and his wife, who have five grandchildren, are “as involved as we can be without being obnoxious”.

Mr Barry Sage-El, 69, a retired software designer in Montclair, New Jersey, describes himself as “the master of the sleepover – and the sleepover breakfast”.

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