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My Kids Joined the Parents Union

PEPS grandparent Bernie Busch shares his many lessons and pearls of wisdom on being a parent and grandparent.

Bernie teaching guitarBernie with grandkids

Bernie with grandson

Bernie with granddaughter

By Meg Butterworth

Since 1983 PEPS has helped parents connect and grow as they begin their journey into parenthood. It strives to build a strong community network among new parents, creating a space where they can share experiences and advice. As PEPS celebrates its thirtieth decade of successfully meeting this fundamental mission, we realize that it is just as important to take time to pause and consider the experiences and lessons learned from our own parents. Not only have they supported us in our new roles but they have had to adapt to a new role of their own as the grandparents of our newborns and toddlers.

Many lessons and pearls of wisdom were to be had during my conversation with Bernie Busch, a PEPS grandparent and valued supporter. Bernie’s familiarity with PEPS runs deep. He is the proud father of PEPS’s own Cari Morales and the equally proud grandfather of Cari’s daughter, Gigi. His daughter Naomi was also a PEPS participant and leader and continues to be a part of the PEPS family with her 2 children, Clara and Nathan.

A New Jersey native, Bernie and his wife Phyllis transplanted to Richland, WA in 1972, six years after receiving his Masters in Social Work from Columbia University. He opened a private practice in clinical social work and spent the next thirty years moving from one patient to the next, each demanding one hundred percent of his attention. Then back home to his wife and three children, where again he strove to be a present and attentive father. No doubt, some days were easier than others!

Having developed a career around the topic of familial relationships and give and take, Bernie was at ease talking about his role as both parent and grandparent, as well as the motivation behind his ongoing support of PEPS.

When asked what changed for him when his children became parents, Bernie responded without hesitation, “You always see your kids as kids until they have children of their own. It’s like they joined the parents union.” He explained that even though his relationship with his children was the same, something different had been added to the mix. They now shared the same life task as he and Phyllis, which they hadn’t before. He admitted it was “mind bending” to watch his children experience the anxieties Bernie and his wife felt when they were new parents. No book prepares you for holding a new life in your hands. It was a revelation for him to see that they were now starting out on the same journey that he and his wife of 45 years are still traveling.

When contemplating the difference between being a father and a grandfather, Bernie reminded me that to parent literally translates to, “to bring forth.” This has been a sort of creed that he has carried with him as a parent. He raised his children in a supportive environment, while also encouraging them to problem solve, think independently and take personal responsibility. As a father of adult children, he continues to apply the same approach but he must be mindful that the context has changed, and he must now be even more respectful of their independence.

As a grandparent his role is still “to bring forth,” however he is not the primary support system. He can augment the primary nurturing and support they get from their parents but he cannot impose his worldview on his grandchildren. He needs to step back and let his kids parent and not add another layer of difficulty to an already difficult job!

As both a parent and a clinical therapist Bernie has had years to exercise and develop his ability to really let go of distractions and be present when he is with his children and clients. He continues to exercise this and shape it to fit his new role as a grandparent. Bernie acknowledges that this is a skill set that most new parents are working to hone. He recognizes that in today’s fast paced world the availability of time poses a challenge and it’s difficult for parents to keep it all together. The amount of quality time people can spend with their children has decreased. Parents are tired and distracted, making it harder to establish those human connections even with the prevalence of social networking. “Despite the ability to exchange information via social networking agents like Facebook and Twitter, everyone is totally absorbed in their own complex existence.”

That’s where PEPS can come in. PEPS enables new parents to connect in person. Bernie explains that PEPS fulfills that basic human need and, “creates the space and framework for new mothers to develop relationships with others; learning to parent and share experiences and occasions together in a supportive community. It does take a village!”

PEPS meetings offer new parents an opportunity to be fully present with their children, to share that time with them and to do something with them that will always be a part of their child’s world.

Bernie and Phyllis view PEPS as a resource that will help their daughters provide for their own emotional needs so they can “have the energy that it takes and the skill that it requires to raise children in the world today.”

That is why they annually contribute to PEPS. They know that in a sense, PEPS is a luxury that not all new parents can afford. However, they feel adamantly that the life lessons it offers should be a necessity. Their contribution along with the support of other PEPS grandparents, enables PEPS to not only sustain its programming but to provide more scholarships for new parents who qualify.

Bernie loves being a granddad and participating in life with his grandchildren. One of his biggest joys however, is to step back and simply observe the wonderful families he and his wife have brought forth.

About the Author


MegButterworthMeg Butterworth lives in NW Seattle with her husband and two children. She joined PEPS in 2006 and still meets with her group to celebrate and share in all of parenting’s joys, surprises, challenges and curveballs.

She enjoys writing, cooking, gardening and catching up on all of her favorite shows while the kids are in bed.  She has volunteered for PEPS as a group facilitator, fundraiser and more recently as a contributor to the PEPS Newsletter.

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