Today is my birthday and I am an old lady. It has taken me two decades to admit this. I remember being indignantly upset when I heard a reporter refer to a 56-year-old woman as “elderly.” Why, I was older than that and I certainly wasn’t elderly! But somewhere along the way, getting up off the floor changed from a thoughtless and largely effortless process to an event, carefully planned and executed. I became more “settled”; both mentally and physically. I am not a pretty young mother who plays softball and tag or jumps spryly in and out of go-carts, boats or tree houses.
Why am I bringing this up? Because we grandparents who have grandchildren living with us need to take a few minutes once in awhile to stand where those kids are and take an unbiased look at ourselves through their eyes. Especially if those eyes have not been exposed to multiple generations as is the case with many modern families. To these children their grandparents might as well have come off one of the Roswell UFO’s. Or they may be viewed as having grown up on dinosaur steaks. (I have been accused of both!) In my forties I recklessly enrolled in a drawing class at the local University where I was roundly ignored by the “traditional” students. Trying to break the ice I made a bantering remark to a young man at the next easel about crayons. Cornered in this fashion he turned to study me and tried to find some common ground. Finally, he said, “What were crayons like when you were young?”
Our grandson Coby came to live with us when he was seven months old and I don’t think he realized there was anything different about us until he entered school. Then the kids started asking the difficult questions:
“Why is you mother so OLD? Where is your real mom? Why don’t you live with her?” He began to see himself as “different” and inferior to the other children. It took me awhile to realize that I was at the root of his problem. I finally took him to some meetings of a local group called Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Everyone brings their children, who are given a meal of pizza and a large gymnasium in which to run it off while under the supervision of some wonderful young people. One night a month can’t undo the daily bumps, but at least he knows that he is not alone in his misfortune!
I do with Coby what I still am able to do: go fishing, walking (I no longer glorify it as hiking), bicycling, and I serve as interested spectator and cheerleader for whatever is trying to master: skateboard, skiing, trick riding or a new game. While he may not have a co- participant, he knows that he can rely on my time and my presence and my interest. This is very important to any child. Truth be told, I find him more absorbing than any of the things I thought I wanted to do when I retired.
Parent Blogger “Gigi” has a PhD in physiology and taught entering nursing students for many years. She is the mother of four and is currently raising her 9-year-old grandson, Coby.