Don’t Let MS Stop You From Grandparenting
My grandson, John, turned 5 in May, and my granddaughter, Hayden, turned 7 in June. I love being their Poppy, but I wish their Poppy didn’t have MS.
I was diagnosed with MS in 1980, just over a year after our son, Geoff, was born. He and our grandkids have lived with my MS all of their lives. I’ve only lived with it for about half of mine.
As I approach my 73rd birthday, I’ve been thinking about how we’ve all dealt with my illness and the limitations it imposes. Coincidentally, I ran across an MS News Today column that my friend Debi Wilson wrote about MS and grandparenting a few years ago.
Being a grandparent with a disability
Debi writes about how she felt inadequate and insecure as a grandparent, because her MS restricted what she could do with her grandkids. She worried that they were being “shortchanged.”
I’ve shared some of those concerns. I’ve never felt insecure, but I’ve often felt inadequate, both as a grandparent and as a parent. On the other hand, I’ve always believed that life isn’t about hiding from the storm — it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
When our son was playing baseball in school and other dads were coaching, I did the next best thing: I kept score. When our grandson was learning to walk, I helped by encouraging him to hold onto my canes as I walked backward. Since his toddler speed matched my MS speed, we made a great pair.
As toddlers, both of our grandkids loved to ride on my lap on my electric scooter, and they still do now that they’re older. When we owned a condo at the beach, I bought a special scooter to take them onto the sand, almost to the water’s edge, though I admit that my wife, who has a back problem, made much more use of it than I did. For them, my disability was their normal.
I haven’t found a lot written about how to be a grandparent when you have a disability, even though I’ll bet many of us are one. An internet search turned up “My Grampy Can’t Walk,” a book for kids up to 7.
Wheelchair manufacturer Karman Healthcare has some suggestions on its website, including things like resting up before a visit with the grandkids, being upfront with them about why you walk funny, use a cane, and can’t go into the ocean waves with them, and giving them a ride on your scooter.
Debi found some suggestions of the “be a good role model” type at Verywell. She also has one of her own that I think is very important: Don’t compare yourself to other grandparents.
“All grandparents can bring special and unique gifts to their grandchildren’s lives,” Debi wrote.
She’s right. You and I are who we are. And we are special to our kids and grandkids no matter what.
You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
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