By: Jerry Witkovsky
If you are a new or first-time grandparent, you’re in good company. According to the 2011 MetLife Report on American Grandparents, one in four American adults is a grandparent; by the year 2020, that number will rise to one in three, or 65 million Americans.
No doubt you’re thrilled to be called Grandma or Grandpa, Nani or Poppie, Bubbie or Zaydie (or – like one spry duo of my acquaintance – Bubbles and Zany). At the same time, it may still come as a bit of a shock. Just yesterday you were pushing your own babies in their strollers – and now those babies are having babies. Clichés like “it all goes by before you know it!” – turn out to be absolutely true.
What no longer rings true, however, is the classic image of America’s grandparents, as depicted in the Norman Rockwell-style tableaux: silver-haired, elderly white folks wiling away their days in their front-porch rockers, waiting for all the kids and grandkids to converge after church for a home-cooked Sunday supper.
It’s possible that this stereotype never fit your family of origin to begin with, as it contains few of the flavors found in the stewpot of 21st-century America. Or maybe it describes your own grandparents right down to their steel-rimmed bifocals and walking-sticks. Except they were so OLD!
You may be (like I once was) a grandparent barely into your fifties, or even younger – still in the workforce, running half-marathons, with other children, teenagers, still living at home. Or even if you are a senior citizen, you’re much too active and attractive to think of yourself that way.
If so, you’re one of the lucky ones. Plenty of older adults don’t feel very spry at all; taking grandchildren to Disney World isn’t in the realm of possibility. Regardless of chronological age, no one is immune from chronic illness or worsening disability, financial downturns, caregiving responsibilities, or other harsh realities.
Notwithstanding your circumstances, or what “the other grandparents” can do: you have priceless gifts to bestow upon the grandchildren who look up to you – whether you’re sharing a rafting trip down the Colorado River, or a Hershey bar at your kitchen table.
That is the essence and the beauty of this singular relationship, whose sweetness will brighten your days.
One thing for sure: wherever you fit in the pantheon of contemporary grandparents, the very definition of what an American family looks like, has changed dramatically from what it was even twenty-five years ago. The wheels of change are turning more rapidly than we could have anticipated, and we are all holding on for the ride.
The stabilizing force of extended family – for every kind of family – is more important than ever.
Reproduced with permission from The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection.
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JERRY WITKOVSKY - GENERATIONS
Jerry Witkovsky is the author of The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, a self-help, how-to guide to enable families to connect more deeply across the generations. A long-time social work professional, grandparenting activist, and passionate Grandpa, Witkovsky guides you toward the Grandest Love of all, with fresh approaches to helping grandparents enter their grandchild’s world to leave values, not just valuables and create a living legacy. Learn more at http://www.TheGrandestLove.com.
Teaching our grandchildren to get out of their comfort zone, into their courage zone, and ‘just do it’ leads to a successful life.
I have found the best way to ‘sink’ any important knowledge, into my Grandss heads is through my art of storytelling.
My philosophy is not scientific. Everyone, at every age, loves a story.
When I sense a problem, I jump in, as their wise grandmother, and ask them to sit down with me... that is if I am lucky enough to be with them. If they are miles away, we talk over the phone or Skype.
I listen to them. I validate their situation. And then I say, “I want to tell you a true story that relates to your situation." It gets their attention, every time, darlings.
I have found with my twenty-four Grands that self- doubts occur as they wonder what paths they should take.
We can recklessly say what we choose, or we can carefully choose what we say.
Remember, we are wise because of our life experiences. Our grandchildren are much younger than us. So we must think before we speak.
Here are a few things you may be tempted to say to your grandchildren, but they will not do anyone any good:
1. “Don’t tell your mom or dad.”
This is teaching your grandchildren it is OK to be dishonest.
By Susan "Honey" Good
"Each time a grandchild is born your heart beats a little faster." Barbara Handy, Honey Good Facebook Friend
About a month or more ago, I posed the following question on my Honey Good Facebook page, "Describe - in one word - how you felt the first time you held your grandchild?"
Dear readers, you did not disappoint with the breadth of your answers nor with their poignancy.
Every child wants to have friends and be part of ‘a group.’
With our guiding principles we should play a role in educating our Grands on the principles of friendship, so they can choose the right friends and groups and avoid the fickle, fake, back stabbers and poor role models.
Teaching Grandchildren, through story telling, is my manner of imparting a message. I choose to tell my Olive tree story by using the tree as a symbol and guide of what characteristics to look for a group.
The Olive Tree Story
To celebrate my amazing children & Grands on National Kids Day I have found a delicious, quick & easy, kid-friendly recipe to try this summer! Guaranteed to impress any hungry Grands!
- Pizza base (one third of our homemade pizza base will make 24 mini pizza bites)
- Passata or tomato puree
- Cheese (we used grated mozzarella)
- Topping of your choice (mushrooms and pepperoni)
Once a month I am very fortunate to be one of several women bloggers who participate in a conference call. We discuss a multitude of topics. I look forward to the exchange.
On last week’s call, I was struck by a topic brought up by one of our members, Donne, who is the owner of GaGaSisterhood.com.
A title of a story she posted, written by another writer, was: Are you denied access to your grandchildren? I was truly shocked at the enormous response Donne received from grandmother’s suffering and grieving because they are not allowed access to their Grands. I asked Donne if I could share the story with you.
My purpose is to let you know you are not alone.
Please share with me and our community of grandmothers.
Last Sunday our Grand, Joe Good, called to check in. His grandfather spoke to him for about 10 minutes. I am not his natural grandmother and I spoke to him for 30.
A few years ago I initiated a plan that I hoped would establish a closer bond with this Grand of mine because…
Joe’s and my life is separated by several thousands of miles, sometimes continents and as mentioned, I am not his natural grandmother.
I am telling you my story so you ‘don’t give up the ship’ if you are in my situation. Remember, ‘where there is a will, there is always a way.’ But, your will must come from the heart.
Here is my story.
My Grands, like many of yours, have moved away with their parents. It is the modern-world syndrome and not only do grandmother’s suffer but so do our adult children and of course, our Grands. We are the scattered generation.
My grown children occasionally chastise me with comments, I feel often unfairly, yet I admit I ask myself, “Could I do more?
I know many absentee grandmothers feel as I do. We are saddened that society has changed from the golden days when we all lived near family. We wish we could hop in our cars; pick up our Grands from school, help them with their homework or take them for a dairy queen. We want to hug them; we want to look at them; we want to be hugged back. But we cannot! It is the scattered generation.
6 years ago, when my identical triplet granddaughters were 4 years old, they began asking me questions about death. They seemed fascinated by a dead bird in the street. Their pet goldfish passed away and they had a ceremony to bury him “at sea”. They talked about great grandparents that they had only heard of and wondered how they had died. None of these experiences or questions came with any sadness. They were merely “curious” about this life event. I was able to answer them with facts rather than emotions.