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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

The Most Foolish Thought I Ever Had

By Allan Shedlin

Grampsy and DADvocacy Consulting Group Founder

Grandkids Ellie, Ben, and Sam with Grampsy, 2009

I once thought about my life as being divided into two stages: Before Daddying (BD) and After Daddying (AD). The instant I became a parent, my identity was changed forever and I immediately became a generation older. Then 24 years ago, I became a grandfather for the first time, and so a third stage and another generation were added: After Granddaddying (AG).

My grandson Sam and I, 2005

This third stage became like AD redux, informed by greater “maturity,” and equipped with parenting lessons learned. I entered this new stage with a different perspective, and it arrived at a time with somewhat diminished intensity – beyond the automatic pilot stage of parenting that often comes in synchrony with establishing one’s career. Yes, of course, I continued to grow – refusing to ever feel that I was terminally “grown-up” – but the intensity of other midlife demands was less demanding.

Thinking about grandparenting as a new stage of parenting seems logical. After all, when I became a granddad for the first time, there were two immediate and fundamental changes in my identity: I instantly became a generation older (as did my “child”), and I immediately had something in common with that adult child that we never had before. We are both parents. These changes are as profound as they remain undiscussed and unacknowledged. And I have learned that these changes are filled with both opportunities and challenges.

"One of the greatest gifts of becoming a grandparent is realizing that your adult children will, at last, have an inkling of the depth of parental love you have felt for them over the years." – Allan Shedlin

Having advanced well into the joys of exuberantly granddaddying five grandchildren, I’ve become aware of a steadily increasing closeness between us. Of course, as that closeness has intensified over the years, I’ve become more aware of my own mortality as those years have piled up.

With my granddaughter Casey at 6 months old

So here’s that “foolish thought:” There was a time I wondered if it made sense to deliberately withhold or to draw back from the ever-increasing closeness with my grandchildren in order to minimize the sadness they would feel when I died.

Could there be a more ridiculous thought?! I’m so happy it was only fleeting.

The intra-generational deprivation of love that would have been denied is difficult to imagine, and the foolishness of the thought still troubles me. What the heart has once loved, it does not lose; what joys have been shared can be revisited as desired, and whatever lessons have been learned may be summoned as needed.

And so I granddaddy on with full exuberance as I continue to be sustained and buoyed by the mutual joys and rewards it brings across the generations.

What the heart has once loved, it does not lose; what joys have been shared can be revisited as desired, and whatever lessons have been learned may be summoned as needed.


Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, a “bonus” son, five grandchildren, and three “bonus” grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, policy development, and advising. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019 he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D the most important “degree” of all.

1 Comment

Deborah E Boldt
Deborah E Boldt
Apr 08, 2021

Allan, your "foolish thought" was shaped in part by a culture that seeks at every opportunity to reduce or remove all sources of suffering. Yet often those times of suffering, if we embrace them, can bring depth, wisdom and greater resilience. I'm so glad you resisted the temptation to follow through on your "foolish thought."

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