Leadership – Passing the Torch of Parenthood

Just before Thanksgiving last year my son and his wife announced at a family dinner that she was expecting. Sometime this summer my wife and I will become grandparents!

We knew that they had been focused on starting a family, and my wife and I were both anticipating an announcement. But anticipation didn’t take anything away from the magic of the announcement.

Gary M. Jordon, Ph.D.

Gary M. Jordon, Ph.D.

Although I had been saying to friends that I was ready to be a grandfather since the two had gotten married a couple of years ago, I discovered a surprise in the announcement – my role and the way I viewed it changed in a heartbeat.

Adding the role of grandfather changed my role as father irrevocably. What I have historically viewed as my primary family role as father to three children – preparing them for and easing the transition into adulthood – has been winding down rapidly over the last several years (My youngest child is in her twenties and has been living on her own for over two years.). But it wasn’t until I had time to reflect during the weeks following the announcement that I realized the enormity of the shift.

Afterwards when I was telling one of my close friends that our primary identification as parents was ending, he quipped, “You will always be a parent.” While this is true, something has changed, and we all know it.

Reflecting on what I felt, I discovered that it was a sense of relief along with the lifting of an enormous sense of responsibility and a passing on of my primary leadership role. Both my wife and I feel a profound sense of success. We have completed our task as parents by having raised our children to a level of self-sufficiency in which we are welcome, wanted, and loved, but no longer needed in the strictest sense of the word.

I know that my role as grandfather is an important one that will be full of new challenges and experiences. But the day to day concerns and joys of steering a family with three children through the minefields of our society, the struggles, the worry, all the ‘firsts’, the 24/7 intensity of babies, young children, and teens is over.

From a leadership perspective, I have completed one goal as a leader and am moving on to a new one. While the active leadership role of father is  ending for me, it is just beginning for my son. As any successful leader discovers, there is a time to pass the torch of leadership on to the next generation. It is a true pleasure when you discover that they are not only ready, but have already taken the role joyfully!

As leaders we outgrow or complete roles, and knowing when it is time to move on is as important to successful leadership as knowing how to grab a leadership role dynamically.

What does the new role hold? Only time can reveal the answer to that question. What I do know is that I am ready to hear the phrase, “Hey grandpa, will you …..”

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6 Responses to Leadership – Passing the Torch of Parenthood

  1. Congratulations on your new role as Grandpa Gary! I love this post, particularly your observation that “as leaders we outgrow one role and knowing when it’s time to move on is as important as knowing how to grab a role dynamically”. Well said!

  2. Congratulations on your coming grandchild! How exciting! It is a wonderful feeling watching your children grow up to be successful adults. There’s a great satisfaction there. Over Christmas we went to the wedding of our first child to get married (our 3rd born) and it’s such an exciting time to watch him step into his life and become the man we always hoped he’d be. I never thought I’d want to be a grandparent, but I’m looking forward to it now. Again, congrats and thanks for sharing your experience!

    • garyjordan2000 says:

      Thanks for your comment Marnie. As I have gone through the different phases of parenthood, I have discovered that I am always ready for the next step when it arrives — life is interesting that way! For years I couldn’t imagine being a grandparent, but now it feels like exactly the right thing to become next! I am looking forward to it with great anticipation.

  3. Dr. Jordon, congratulations on the transition into grand-parenting! This is a great article on the changing role of the family leader / patriarch / matriarch as well. I’m editing a book right now with a working title of ‘When Households Collide.’ It’s about arriving, surviving and thriving in a Blended Family.

    One of the points this book makes is that they feel parenting has three stages: First, we’re the parent, always telling them what to do. Next, we become the coach, guiding them, encouraging good choices, and helping them ‘evaluate their plays.’ Last is the role of consultant on an as needed /requested basis.

    So many people stay in that parenting role too long, and some begin the consultant role too early – knowing when to transition your roles is crucial to being able to have the type of relationship you have with your son that you attest to in this paragraph: “Reflecting on what I felt, I discovered that it was a sense of relief along with the lifting of an enormous sense of responsibility and a passing on of my primary leadership role. Both my wife and I feel a profound sense of success. We have completed our task as parents by having raised our children to a level of self-sufficiency in which we are welcome, wanted, and loved, but no longer needed in the strictest sense of the word.”

    Thank you for sharing your insights in such an open way with your readers!

    • garyjordan2000 says:

      Thanks for the comment Jennie. I really like your concept of the three stages of parenting. They are exactly what I have experienced over the last thirty years! I appreciate your positive feedback.

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