A grandmother was telling her little granddaughter what her own childhood was like. “We used to skate outside on a pond. I had a swing made from a tire; it hung from a tree in our front yard. We rode our pony. We picked wild raspberries in the woods.” The little girl was wide-eyed, taking this all in. At last she said, “I sure wish I’d gotten to know you sooner!” (from the website www.grandparenting.org).
Do thoughts of your grandchildren give you the “warm fuzzies”? I do not have the privilege of being a grandparent yet, but I do recall with pleasure memories of time spent with my own grandparents. I was fortunate to know all four of my grandparents, as well as three of my great-grandparents, and to live close enough to see them on a regular basis. The sound of sparrows chirping takes me back to my childhood when my sister and I would stay with our maternal grandparents for a week during summer vacation. Upon awakening in the morning, through the open windows of my grandparent’s guest room, I would hear the distinct sounds of the chirping, my grandfather’s footsteps crunching on their stone driveway, and his whistling as he watered his flower beds. Even now I smile as I recall his battles to keep squirrels out of the many homemade birdhouses which the sparrows inhabited. The smell of my grandmother’s specialty, Swedish pancakes, was a wonderful motivation to get out of bed and start a new day. Christmas dinner was always spent at my paternal grandparent’s home, and my grandfather had the job of carving the turkey, and pretended to give me a hard time when I sampled a bite before sitting down at the table. When eating blueberries, I often picture my paternal grandmother with an old coffee can hanging around her neck, both hands picking the wild blueberries and blackberries that grew in the woods near their weekend retreat. She knew all of the best spots to find berries.
As older adults live longer and healthier lives, they may have increased opportunities to share their love, wisdom, and life experience with their grandchildren. On the other hand, several generations of a family are not as likely to live as close to each other as in the past, and there exists a wide array of organized activities for children today. Both of these factors can make scheduling time together more difficult. Many studies support the benefits of grandchild/grandparent relationships. Since grandparents are free from the responsibility of day-to-day parenting, they are in a unique position to provide specialized attention and nurturing, which can give grandchildren opportunities for social, emotional, and intellectual growth. Grandchildren also develop a connection to the past, and grandparents develop a connection to the future. The benefits of grandchild/grandparent relationships aren’t restricted to just young grandchildren, either. A recent study by members of the sociology department at Boston College demonstrated that for adult grandchildren and grandparents who reported emotionally close relationships, the likelihood of experiencing symptoms of depression was lessened for both groups.
Grandparents’ Day was first celebrated as a state holiday in West Virginia in 1973, with the goals of promoting relationships between children and older adults and helping children gain an awareness of the “strength, information, and guidance older people can offer” (www.grandparents-day.com). Following a national campaign, in 1978 President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents’ Day. This year, we celebrate this special relationship between generations on September 7th. Do you have plans to see your grandparents or grandchildren soon? The website www.legacyproject.org contains a special Grandparents’ Day activity guide, featuring ideas to help your time together strengthen family connections and be enjoyable as well. Their “Across Generations” section contains numerous suggestions for activities, games, and projects that can be utilized anytime.
My grandparents passed away a number of years ago, and I continue to develop a greater understanding of and appreciation for the impact that they have made on my life. My thanks to them for their love, and to all older adults and grandparents, I wish you the joy of sharing time with younger generations and the fulfillment of knowing that memories of those shared times will be recalled and cherished for many years to come. Happy Grandparents’ Day!
Karen Kaslow, RN