Aleteia

Kids need to spend time with their grandparents … for humanity’s sake

Hugging Grandparent
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Don’t wait another minute to schedule a visit, have your kids write a letter, or set up a Skype call.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. I was lucky enough to live close to both sets of grandparents my whole childhood, and we often spent the night with them.

I remember the quiet of my dad’s parents’ house. It was an almost magical stillness, broken only by the ticking grandfather clock. Granny and Granddad were people of few words, which was sometimes hard for a chatterbox like me. But their stillness left a lasting impression on me, as did the way they showed me how to do things instead of telling me.

My Granny taught me how to make fudge without explaining. She just did it, and I watched. Wordlessly, she handed me the spoon to stir and the spatula to smooth.

My Granddaddy used to sit on the porch for hours and whittle. One day I asked if I could try, and wordlessly, he handed me a some wood and a knife. We whittled for hours, until I had carved a facsimile of a bird. It was a far cry from his intricate, doll-sized carvings, but he smiled and put up in his display case nevertheless.

My mom’s parents were different — louder, more energetic, full of life and laughter. My Mamaw was a whirlwind who never sat down, always cleaning or cooking or sewing or gardening. When I went to visit them, she would take us to see my Papaw at the auto shop where he worked, and he’d buy us a coke from the vending machine and show us off to every employee and customer in the store. At night, they indulged our endless impromptu “performances” and then let us watch John Wayne movies until midnight.

I couldn’t help but think of my grandparents when I read this post at Scary Mommy, about the case for staying connected to our grandparents:

“Today, we have all the tools and few excuses not to help our kids and our parents develop relationships that are meaningful. More so than ever, people are segregated by age groups, and interacting less and less with those outside their cohort. That means we aren’t learning and sharing with people who have histories and experiences that are rich and valuable. One of my greatest joys was being ‘Mimi’s granddaughter,’ and I want my kids to be able to experience that kind of closeness with my parents. It is good for everyone. It is good for humanity.”

My kids are growing up a thousand miles from their grandparents. We try to go see them once a year, and they come see us when they can, but those brief visits contain most of my kids’ interaction with their grandparents.

That’s not enough. My kids miss their grandparents, and they talk about them all the time. They ask to call, to write letters, to fly on a plane alone or ride their bikes all the way to Texas. They want to share everything with my parents and my husband’s parents — not just the big things, but the little things. The dragonfly that landed on a finger. The alligator that crawled up to our fence. The funniest joke ever, the best drawing of all time, the saddest day at school. They want their grandparents to experience their lives with them.

But we just don’t have the time, I say, like so many other parents. Not for a long phone call, not tonight. Tomorrow, I promise. We’ll find an envelope and mail the letter tomorrow, we’ll call in the morning, I promise, we will.

Tomorrow doesn’t usually come. Sometimes it does, but not very often. That’s unfair, for both my children and my parents and in-laws. I can’t give my kids the same kind of connection I had with my grandparents, but I can give them a chance to form their own connections. And as the parent, I’m the only one who can give them that chance.

A 15-minute phone call is more important than sticking to a rigid bedtime. It’s more important because it’s a foundation to build on, to help me form a habit of saying “yes, call your grandparents” or “yes, I’ll stop right now and help you mail the letter.”

I want my children to see and experience the wisdom that their grandparents can share with them. I want them to learn stillness and quiet from my in-laws, and laughter and family game night from my parents. And I want their grandparents to have the chance to know them, in all their strengths and weaknesses.

All of that is possible, now more than ever before. All I have to do is take the time to make it happen.

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