All of us will no doubt survive that awkward phase as we grow up to blossom into respectable, productive grandparents. Human development experts may try to convince you that an earlier era of our lives is more challenging; that phase when boys become men and girls become women, when they grow their identities and decide who they will become. They will ardently claim that there is nothing more exciting, yet torturous for the human psyche than hormone-crazed kids trapped in blossoming bodies. They will insist that nature's most brutal attack on mankind's self-esteem is launched during those confusing years when one is neither a child nor an adult but some kind of creature in-between.
Now that I am experiencing it myself, however, I can factually proclaim that there is a stage of life much more challenging: those in-between years for many older parents. I'm talking about that agonizing gap that unexpectedly appears when children leave home to find fame and fortune, but have not produced any offspring that require their grandparents' love and attention. We can be seen trolling the hallways of church during the three-hour block pinching the cheeks of cute ankle-biters fighting vainly for liberation against the stripling arms of their young mothers. We randomly peek into the nursery as if we are on official business, just for the privilege and pleasure of witnessing the cumulative cuteness of young children at play. We volunteer to hold babies while parents teach a class or conduct a meeting, and then reluctantly return them, as if we had a choice to do so. We aggressively worry about our son or daughter's love life at BYU, and even, in a fit of ultimate frustration, roam the desolate hallways of our own homes, raising our voices high into the heavens: “ I want grandchildren!”
That awkward phase is the “grandparent gap,” that precarious, lonely time when kids are old and grown enough to live on their own, but not old and grown enough to produce children of their own requiring that special kind of care only grandparents can bestow. There is nothing more awkward than aspiring parents trying to find purpose in life by spoiling the nearest target of opportunity; other people's children.
The big church specializes in inventing inspired programs that meet specific needs, and there are all sorts of options the Brethren could implement to assist the grandparents of tomorrow in enduring today's perilous pause in parenting. The First Presidency could mandate that all members enduring this lonely phase receive calls to work in Primary or the Nursery. It could create the Temple Worship Nursery program, where potential grandparents are called to babysit the rugrats of busy young parents with righteous desires to attend the temple.
Or... potential grandparents could humble themselves in honest, heart-wrenching prayer, seeking comfort in their infirmities, and receive personal inspiration on little acts of service they could provide to support young parents in their struggles to raise up Saturday's Warriors on a Friday night.
Which way is right?