One of the big concerns for grandparents is that spending time with grandkids can be exhausting. Although we love them and want to be with them, we are often relieved when they go home. We say goodby and then go take a nap. A solution for this exhaustion is for grandparents to build stamina.
The dictionary defines stamina as the “strength of physical constitution; the power to endure disease, fatigue, and privation.” Although stamina refers mostly to physical strength, there is also an emotional and psychological stamina that grandparents need in order to spend time with their grandkids. I like to compare being a grandma to running a marathon. We need to be long distance runners, not sprinters. We need to strengthen our bodies and train our minds to be in the race.
Why grandparents need stamina
There is a reason the child bearing years are for younger adults. First, it is physically demanding to take care of small children. Initially, surviving sleepless nights takes a toll on daytime energy. Also, the ongoing lifting and carrying of a seven pound baby-bundle that keeps growing in size and weight requires a good back and strong muscles. In addition, being attentive to the needs and questions of small children requires emotional energy as well.
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Keeping a toddler safe from cars, swimming pools and falls requires vigilance. How many times have we jumped to our feet to rescue a twenty-pound grandchild from some immediate threat? A preschooler can come up with a thousand questions in a short period of time. And all of them require some kind of answer that can tax our emotional and intellectual capacity. Then the demands grow during the middle years, which are filled with school, extra-curricular activities, and friends. And if there is more than one child in the family, the demands can multiply. Unless we are raising our grandkids, we do not have all of the requirements for stamina that their parents have. But we still have demands that we need to prepare for.
To keep up with your grandkids
When grandparents are a part of a their grandkid’s life, we need to build the stamina to keep up. We need to increase the amount of time and energy we are able to expend with our grandkids so that we are not continually exhausted after being with them. Holding and carrying young grandkids requires physical stamina. We need emotional stamina to answer questions and to be attentive to the various needs of our grandkids. We need to keep our minds sharp and be willing to tackle new challenges if we are going to stay relevant in our grandkids’ world. In addition, as grandparents, we are going to have to grow in wisdom to provide what our grandkids need to survive in an uncertain world. Remember, we want to build stamina for grandparenting.
What grandparents can do to build stamina
There are prerequisites to building stamina. First, we need to have a clear reason for why we want to have physical energy and mental stamina to be with our grandkids. Most of us want to be able to get down on the floor and play with our grandkids. Some of us want to hike with them, or garden with them, or play softball together. Neither of my grandmothers had the ability to play with me. They didn’t move well and spent most of their time sitting. Both of my grandmothers died in their early 70’s. Health concerns shortened their lives and limited their activities. Both of my grandmas loved me, but I don’t have many memories of my time with them.
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When I became a grandma, I was determined to build the physical stamina to play with my grandkids. I became far more attentive to taking care of myself so that I would be there for them over the years. Losing weight, starting a walking program, working out, drinking water, and getting enough sleep became priorities as I worked on my building my physical stamina for being a grandma. I wanted my grandkids to remember fun times with me. I also wanted to model for them what lifelong health looks like.
We do need to understand our limits. Depending on our age and health, we may have physical limitations. If we are still working, we have time constraints to consider as well. We need to be honest about our limitations. Some of them we have control over–like losing weight and getting enough sleep. But there are other realities that we need to accept. We need to do the best we can to embrace healthy lifestyle choices. But we also need to find ways to adapt our goals to the the things that we cannot change.
As we get more involved with our grandkids, it is helpful to stay current with best practices in child rearing. We can read books and articles, join Facebook groups and sharing ideas with other grandmas, or take a course in parenting or grandparenting. Also, culture changes and shifts with time, so we may need to learn about the new stuff out there. What are the books, movies and TV shows that are appealing to children? We might need to add some new read aloud books to our tried and true classics. We should also brush up on our own skill set so that we can be prepared to teach what we know to our grandkids when the time is right.
As in training for a marathon, we can’t go and run our 26.2 miles after being couch potatoes all our lives. We need to work for consistency as we start to spend time with our grandkids. It is difficult to have a Cousins’ Camp for a week if you can’t hang out with your grandkids for a couple of hours in the afternoons. We need a plan to begin spending time with our grandkids to develop stamina. It works well to start slow and build on successes.
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Stamina building training plan
Just as in training for a marathon, there is a basic path to follow to building stamina for grandparenting. Begin by spending time with your grandchild in your home for a couple of hours. Keep it simple. Read books, play games, have a healthy snack, go for a walk around the block. Increase the number of times you hang out with your grandkids before increasing the length of time you are with your grandkids. This will build your emotional endurance to enjoy time with your grandkids without being exhausted.
While you are building your emotional stamina, work to build your physical stamina as well. Assess your current level of health and fitness. Get checked out by your doctor. Begin to make healthier choices about food, exercise, hydration and sleep. There are so many resources out there to learn to make healthier lifestyle choices. Find the ones that fit your needs and make the changes you need to make to give you what you want.
Gradually increase the time with grandkids
As you work on spending relaxed, shorter time with your grandkids, add in a sleepover. Having your grandkids for a sleepover extends your time with them and builds your stamina, just as a long run will help in training for a marathon. Use a template to plan sleepovers. I keep our sleepovers simple and scheduled. And I do as much prep work ahead of time as I can.
As you grow in your stamina for being with your grandkids consistently and for a longer period of time, then you are ready to intensify your time together. Outings, field trips, hikes, vacations together are all well within reach when you have built a routine of relaxed times and extended times with your grandkids. These require more planning than a sleepover, but they also are the activities that generate the most memories and stories for you to enjoy in coming years.
Finally, enjoy the rest of not being with your grandkids. When they go home, reflect on the fun you have had. But then, do something relaxing–read a book, take a nap, watch a movie, go for a walk. Rest and relaxation will reward you for the energy you spent being with your grandkids. It will also rejuvenate you for the next time.
The goal of time with your grandkids is to help them become healthy, productive people who can make a contribution in the communities they live in. You want to have the stamina to be an influence in their lives to help your grandkids survive and thrive for the long haul.
To summarize building stamina:
Work on your physical health. This will be foundational to building stamina for spending time with your grandkids. But while you are working on a living a healthy lifestyle, begin to spend time with your grandkids. Take time to plan your activities with your grandkids. Find a system that works for you. Be systematic as you build consistency in your time with them. Extend the length of time with a sleepover. Intensify the time with a bang-up outing or field trip. But afterwards, take time to rest and relax.
- Build a schedule of relaxed times with your grandkids.
- Extend the length of time you are with your grandkids–do a sleepover.
- Intensify the time with your grandkids–take a field trip or go somewhere fun together that requires more planning
- Rest and relax
Oh, and one final tip–wear good shoes. You can’t run a marathon in flip flops!