Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

This 'Mr.' wonders how to become 'Grandpa'

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I have three grandchildren who address me as "Mr.," and not as "Grandpa."

Although it is true that I was not in their lives growing up, I was not a bad or cruel influence.

A few years ago, I sent a Christmas gift (a large check) to one of these grandchildren, and I quickly received a nice thank you card, but it was addressed "Dear Mr. 'Smith.'"

I was so angry that I never sent another gift, and haven't heard from them since.

I am 87 years old. How do I become "Grandpa" before it is too late?

-- Want to Be Grandpa

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Dear Want to Be: The way to become a "Grandpa" is to act like one. Grandparents, ideally, are involved, caring and kind. They offer a soft place for their grandchildren to nestle, removed from the pressures of other relationships. They love without harsh judgment. They create a positive presence, even when they are not nearby. They communicate and show a loving interest in the lives of their grandchildren. Yes, sometimes grandparents send big checks, but the big check is supposed to be an expression of the love, not a bid for it.

Your reaction to this gracious "thank you" was punitive. Instead of simply saying, "I would love it if you would call me 'Grandpa,' you cut off all communication, missing yet another opportunity for meaningful connection.

Reach out to these three grandchildren. Explain yourself. Describe your life, and explain why you weren't in their lives during their formative years. Apologize for all of the missed opportunities. Ask them to get in touch and tell you about themselves.

You don't mention your relationship with the parents of these three grandchildren, but -- obviously -- they hold an influential and important relationship card with these children.

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