The Fathering Life Course starts with the birth of your child. The last stage starts with another birth and a new, well-deserved title: grandpa. We call this stage Generativity. The rest of the world may try to retire you; but your grandchildren are ready to hire you on for one more stint in that rewarding career known as fatherhood.
Life has become grand again, and much of the pleasure is wrapped up in those little ones who invade your home every so often. They put a spring in your step, a smile on your face, and youthful feelings in your heart. You grandfathers become more affectionate and nurturant than men at any other stage of the life cycle.
You’ve got some extra leisure time. But you’ve also got a new freedom that comes with this next generation. You have a lot less at stake in how they turn out. Your ego is not so mixed up with them, and your affection has no conditions attached. You simply love them because they breathe-and it’s a powerful emotion.
At the National Center for Fathering, we work hard to convince young men that fathering is a vitally important task. Grandfathers seem to know this intuitively. They’re more aware that they can’t “take it with them,” and they focus more on what they leave behind: generations which continue into the future, blessed or cursed by the father power they’ve exercised. That’s generativity.
Researchers have identified five emotions that men experience as grandfathers:
1. Biological renewal and continuity: a chance to feel young again and a sense that your name, character, and family will extend beyond your lifetime.
2. Emotional self-fulfillment: the sheer joy of being related to such adorable and talented children. “Surely no one has ever had such great grandchildren before!”
3. Being a resource: feeling useful through supplying advice, family history, and some financial support.
4. Vicarious achievement: taking personal pride about a grandchild’s performance or character.
5. “Spoiling” the children—a pleasure they denied themselves as parents.
Dad—Granddad—your work’s not done; it’s just gotten more enjoyable. Your children and grandchildren need you as much as ever.