On the Importance of Grandparents: What Lessons Did Yours Teach You?
“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.” — Alex Haley
How did your grandparents affect your life — and how are your own parents influencing your child’s life? I am fortunate to have many fond childhood memories of my grandparents. My paternal grandmother, who passed two years ago, was a wonderful woman who taught me a lot about life. She raised fifteen children, and many of them on her own after she was widowed at the age of 45 while her youngest was still in diapers. My “Gramma” taught me about being self-sufficient, and being responsible for myself. More than that, she taught me about the importance of family, and being willing to help out others who need it. She was not a wealthy woman, and she showed me that time spent is infinitely more important than money spent. My Gramma never took me on shopping sprees, or to big theme parks when I went to see her in the summertime. Still, I treasure the memories of my time with her, whether it was going to the local park to watch people play horseshoes, or sitting in her kitchen late at night drinking tea and eating graham crackers while listening to the commuter trains go by.
My maternal grandparents were also very influential in my upbringing. Due to events which occurred during my childhood, there were periods of time where my maternal grandparents stepped into more of a parenting role for my siblings and me. Instead of travelling or engaging in their hobbies, they were there for the daily routines of getting up, packing lunches, doing laundry and getting homework done. As a result of their actions, from taking care of my siblings and me to going to my great-grandparents’ gravesites every week and watering the geraniums, the significance of family was reinforced.
My Nana is a great shopper, and showed me the thrill of “bargain-hunting.” She taught me how to make a great pie crust, and how to can and “put up” the various fruits and vegetables of summer to enjoy all year round. I learned much of my family’s history through her stories after dinner, or during countless card games and puzzles. My Bubba showed me the value of standing up for what you believe in, regardless of how popular it is. Both of them emphasized education to all their grandchildren, a lesson I took very much to heart. They also modeled not taking life too seriously and the value of being willing to laugh at yourself.
Now that I am a parent, I think about the role grandparents will play in my child’s life. I hope that my child will learn some of the same lessons I did — the importance of hard work, responsibility, education and humor. I hope that I am able to model the value of family much in the same way that my parents and grandparents did. I realize the challenges which parenting again presented for my grandparents, and I recognize the sacrifices made by many grandparents today who are parenting the next generation. I am awed by the amount of energy and resources the task of parenting requires of me every day, and I am touched by the number of grandparents who care for their grandchildren and make it work, regardless of their own health, financial or other concerns.
To those very special grandparents (or great-grandparents) who are stepping into the parenting role once more, even if you never hear it from your own grandchildren, please know that you are appreciated. You may not receive recognition of your actions or statements of gratitude right now, but please believe me when I say that what you’re giving your grandkids is priceless, and will stay with them for a lifetime.