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.
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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