There is a joy in their greeting borne of long absence. There are always gifts in their hands--not necessarily big or flashy, and often pre-approved by the parents, but carefully and lovingly chosen. They have the knowing calm of experience to face what exasperates the middle generation. And sometimes they laugh at what infuriates us parents--because they know that in the long run, we'll laugh, too.
They are grandparents. And done well, grandparenting is one of the greatest gifts to the world.
I have heard the grandparenting philosophy known as "spoil 'em and give 'em back," and have come to despise it.
Our children do not have those kind of grandparents. They have grandparents who relish every story heard and told by the wee ones. They have grandparents whose loving patience exceeds that of their parents, but will put up with no more unacceptable behavior. They have grandparents with gentle voices and enveloping embraces.
These grandparents see in their grandchildren all the come-uppance that we parents earned in our childhoods, but keep their reminders kind, with a twinkle of the eye.
These grandparents are great, and we are blessed to have them in the lives of our children.
Thank God for great grandparents!