September and Semicolons
September, semicolons and suicide prevention
By: Shannon Courington
Awareness is a popular term in contemporary society. There are awareness ribbons of various colors, days set aside for particular awareness and entire months devoted for consciousness regarding particular issues. Creating awareness—knowledge or perception of a situation or fact, is the goal of these efforts. At times though, our eyes and ears become accustomed to the ribbons, the events and the causes. There are two main causes that are promoted during the month of September, Childhood Cancer Awareness and Suicide Prevention. Each of these causes are worthy of attention and action.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that there is much benefit in suicide prevention year- round, but designates September as a time for collaboration between mental health providers and the community for discussion of this very difficult topic. Every September, mental health advocates, suicide prevention groups, survivors, allies, and community members unite for the common cause of suicide prevention.
Suicide, the intentional taking of one’s own life, is the tenth leading cause of death for all ages in America. In Alabama, it is the second leading cause of death for individuals ages 15-24. Since 1990, the suicide rate in Alabama has been higher than the national average. Additionally, Alabama has fewer mental health care resources than any other state in the nation.
Local families deal with suicide loss
Courtney Weaver of Jackson says that on July 24, her entire world changed with one phone call. Her brother, Tripp Carter, had ended his own life. Weaver says that until that phone call, she, nor anyone in her family, knew the warning signs that someone with suicidal ideations may exhibit. Unfortunately, hindsight is perfect. Weaver says that from the outside, her brother always seemed happy and was always smiling. According to Weaver, behind the warm sense of humor and bright smile was a person who was living with depression, a crippling mental illness. “Knowing the signs could have helped us get Tripp the help he needed,” Weaver stated. The Carter and Weaver families are doing their part to spread awareness and to speak out in order to save lives. They have sold tee shirts in Tripp’s memory with proceeds benefitting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The family is planning a local candlelight vigil for all of those in our community that have been affected by suicide. Another project in the works is a nonprofit organization called TSm;le, that will educate others in the local community about mental illness and suicide.
With the belief that suicide is usually preventable, the mission of Project Semicolon is to aid in reducing the number of suicides by providing greater access to resources. In grammar, a period is used to end a sentence, but a semicolon is used to link two independent clauses together, causing the sentence to be longer and more detailed. In relation to suicide, the semicolon is used to remind individuals that their story isn’t over yet and to encourage them to seek help and continue living rather than choosing suicide. The goal of Project Semicolon is to raise public awareness, educate communities, and provide individuals with tools to save lives. The Carter family has chosen to incorporate the semicolon into their nonprofit as a reminder for those struggling that there is more life to live.
The warning signs
Awareness of warning signs of suicide is crucial for parents, friends, spouses and caregivers. Dramatic changes in sleep and appetite are hallmark signs of change within an individual. A decline in personal care and a decline in functioning at school or work or difficulty performing familiar tasks are also warning signs of mental distress or suicidal ideations. Apathy towards situations or people that would have formerly warranted an individual’s full attention is another area of concern. Rapid and dramatic shifts in emotions, fear or suspiciousness, or strong feelings of paranoia or nervousness are a few other signs of a decline in an individual’s mental health and desire to live.
Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.” Because of the stigma that is associated with mental illness, suicide and suicide attempts, many individuals do not seek help that is available. Society tends to judge and shun those with mental illness. Courtney Weaver said that she and her family always knew what suicide was and had even known families affected by it; but always thought there was no way it could affect them. In the eight-week period since Tripp’s death, the family has arrived at the sobering realization that suicide is not a respecter of persons, families or situations. Weaver encourages individuals to stop the stigma of suicide as being a cowardly act, a permanent solution to a temporary problem, selfishness or taking the easy way out. There is no true way to know what an individual may be internally battling. Mental health experts encouraged individuals to ask hard questions and listen to how the individual responds. Experts also warn family members to take every threat seriously. If an individual trusts a person enough to share their struggles with suicidal ideation, be willing to listen and not judge, but to show empathy and point them to resources that will help them.
Courtney Weaver used this expression to describe the pain and loss that her family is experiencing. Her brother left behind an infant son who will not know his father’s love personally, but he will grow up knowing about his father through Weaver and her parents, Ann and Bo Carter and brother, Hunter Carter. Weaver says that she would not wish the nightmarish experience of losing someone to suicide on anyone, but hopes that what her family has learned through this loss may save someone else’s life.
Resources for mental health treatment are available in all counties in Alabama. Community mental health centers serve each county. Most of these work on a sliding fee scale for patients who lack insurance and most bill Medicaid. A majority of counties have private practitioners who accept private insurance and private pay options. Many churches offer counseling services as well. The Suicide Lifeline is a free 24/7 call center to assist anyone who is struggling with depression or suicidal ideation. The number is 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-273-TALK
Haint Blue and Southern Traditions
On a wall, it would just be considered light blue, sky blue, or perhaps robin’s egg blue, but paint your porch ceiling with it and it is automatically, unmistakably “haint blue.” The tradition of haint blue porch ceilings is deeply rooted in Southern folklore. It originated with the Gullah Geechee people who were brought to America to be slaves.
The Gullah came from different parts of Africa and spoke many different languages. These languages eventually intertwined with the English of their masters became Creole. As the languages blended, so did the story telling. Southerners began telling the Gullah folklore stories to their children and the Gullah began sharing Southern folklore with their children. Each culture added its own rhetorical elements to the original stories, making them unique to the region in which they were told.
Gullah folklore includes the story of an old witch who lived in the woods. She had one companion, an old razorback hog that she called Raw Head. One day, Raw Head was slaughtered by a hunter. Using her powers, she brought her only companion back to life, but his appearance had changed from that of a usual hog. He was scary. He walked upright and carried his head in his arms. Raw Head is the epitome of scary stories. He and his companion Bloody Bones have delighted and terrified Southern children for centuries now.
Folk traditions of the Gullah people included painting the ceilings of their porches in light shades of blue to ward off unwanted visitors, like Raw Head and Bloody Bones and other phantoms, evil spirits or apparitions. According to the Gullah, such spirits will see the blue ceilings and think that they are a part of the sky or a body of water. This color supposedly keeps the negative from entering the home. The tradition of haint blue porch ceilings on the shanties of the Gullah spread into the white culture. The blue pigmentation came from crushed indigo plants and the paint was made with lye. Because of the lye, unwanted insects like wasps, hornets and dirt daubers were repelled along with any evil spirits. The Gullah believed that it was the color, not the composition that deterred flying insects.
The word “haint” may be a derivative of the word “haunt,” but it has earned its own place in English linguistics. One online dictionary defines the word simply as “ghost,” but in southern folklore, a haint is much more than simply a ghost. It could be a monster, a witch or any restless spirit. Most of stories of haints were told to scare, delight and amuse children in an age before television and the Internet.
The tradition of using haint blue to paint front porch ceilings dates back to the 1700s. It began on the Carolina coasts where the Gullah were originally unloaded from ships. As slave trade spread throughout the South, so did the stories of haints, phantoms and spirits. So did the tradition of painting a porch ceiling haint blue.
In the Oakleigh Historic District of Mobile, haint blue porch ceilings can clearly be seen on the antebellum style homes. The southern cities of Savannah, Ga., Mandeville and New Orleans, La., and Memphis, Tenn. also have homes with haint blue porch ceilings. The phenomenon has even spread to the Florida Keys. Now to choose the right shade because there is no definite haint blue. Rather it is a series of hues ranging from pale green to lightest blue, mimicking both the colors of the ocean and the sky.
Folklore and traditions are two of my favorite things. I don’t know that haint blue will keep trouble from coming to my front door, but if it deters wasps, I’ll welcome it! I think I may just chance it. If the rain will ever stop, I’m off to Ace Hardware to purchase my paint, my “haint paint.”
“It takes a whole lot of faith to put a child on a school bus.” I vividly remember saying this to my grandmother as we watched my son get on the school bus for the first time as a kindergartner in 2002. I will always believe this statement. I will go even further now and say that it takes a whole lot of faith to drive a school bus. There are jobs that I know I could not do. This is one of them.
Upon hearing of the bus accident in Laton Hill last Thursday, my first thought was the safety and wellbeing of the children. Next, my mind went to the driver. What emotions she must have felt! It’s hard to even imagine. Until an incident occurs, we often take certain individuals for granted. Early Friday morning, I heard about Andrew and Austin, two brothers who were passengers on the bus. At ages 16 and 15, they were likely among the oldest passengers. After realizing they survived a crash, the two sprang into action to lead their fellow passengers off of the overturned bus and to safety. What calm and steady voices they must have had! What leadership they must have demonstrated! Not only did the brothers assist other students, but they went to the aid of the bus driver who was still fastened in the driver’s seat by her seatbelt. Due to the angle of the bus, she was unable to unbuckle herself, but the Moss brothers were there for her.
I do not know the parents of these boys, but I know that they must be thankful for the fact that their sons and everyone else’s children survived the accident. No doubt there is pride for the initiative their boys took and the leadership they displayed. I’d guess that they are humbled, just absolutely captivated by the fact that their boys, so close in age, who probably argue, fuss and fight around the house, looked to each other for leadership and served with the best interests of others in mind. What else could a parent hope for?
Yes, good grades and high ACT scores will get you scholarships. Yes, athleticism and dedication to a team will warrant recognition from the community, the coach, the team. Yes, organizational and study skills are a must for life. Yes, in order to keep a job, you must be punctual and know your tasks. Every single one of these things is important. I dare not diminish the value of a solitary one of these.
However, the lesson that resonates here is stronger than athletics, academics, punctuality and responsibility.
The lesson here is compassion for others. As a parent, that’s what captures my attention, the compassion. The boys’ concern was not just for each other but for every individual on that school bus. I imagine that there were tears, screams and emotional meltdowns as these occur with accidents and unexpected incidents. According to the accounts that I have read and heard, these boys handled everything as calmly as an adult would have until other adults arrived at the scene.
No one told them that they had to do anything for anyone else. They could have simply dialed 911 and waited, but they didn’t. They saw the needs and they met the needs without reservations and second thoughts. Heroes can be defined in a variety of different ways and in a myriad of contexts. I found an anonymous Internet definition that seems to fit the term regarding Andrew and Austin. A hero is “any common person placed in uncommonly difficult circumstances who displays uncommonly noble character.”
I know that when those boys woke up Thursday morning, heroic actions were the furthest things from their minds. They were likely thinking about Bulldog football, the lunch menu, the homework they needed to catch up on and what their friends were up to after school. I doubt they even considered the likelihood of an accident and they had no time to practice heroics.
Still. In the time of need, they responded with courage, determination and wisdom beyond their years. That’s something that doesn’t come without discipline and compassion. Job well done, mom and dad. I know that you and many other sets of parents hugged your children a little tighter Thursday evening. To all of the bus drivers, you are appreciated. You have a tough job and so much responsibility. To every parent who watches through the window as your child loads a bus, yes, it takes an extreme amount of faith.
To the Moss brothers, thank you for the example of courage that you set. Your actions were being noted by younger students and by adults. What you accomplished is outstanding.
The world needs more young people like you.
Where Alabama Began
Alabama’s oldest county has a rich history based in farming, timber, waterways, rail and industry. Washington County was established in June 1800 in the Mississippi Territory and became the first county in what is now Alabama. Several rooms in the basement of the courthouse in Chatom are designated as the Washington County Museum. They tell the story of the county from Native American settlements on the banks of the Tombigbee to the quiet, but productive timber and industry corridor it has become.
In 1965 a group of citizens interested in preserving the county’s history approached the Washington County Commission regarding a possible museum. The commissioners, sensing the eagerness of their constituents and knowing the importance of preserving the valuable artifacts, agreed to allocate the space to house the collections. The county provided the materials and labor and agreed to cover the general operating expenses. Thus, the collecting began.
What is now considered “farmhouse chic” are the items that started the collection. Manual washboards for cleaning clothes, a wooden doorknob from the original courthouse, quilts, milk pails and Mason jars fill several cases. Items that are being sought now to decorate the home were once the essentials within the home.
The canoe and the Tombigbee
The focal point of the museum’s first room, and perhaps its most noted piece is the 20.1 foot-long dugout canoe. The canoe has fascinated both children and adults for decades. It was found on the Tombigbee River near Peavey’s Landing in May 1973. Prior to preservation by the University of South Alabama, a small piece of the wood from the canoe was used for radiocarbon dating. Based on this process, it is estimated that the canoe was built around 1345, during the Mississippian Period, making it 674 years old.
The canoe is likely made of cypress, a water-friendly wood. Using scrapers likely made from shell and bone, Native Americans would have scraped out the tree trunk which would have been burned out first.
Much of Washington County’s history centers around the waters that the canoe would have commanded. The Tombigbee River flows through the ancient hunting grounds of the Native Americans, the rich pine forests, and the continual developing industrial sites. Old St. Stephens, which was located directly on the banks of the Tombigbee became the first territorial capital of Alabama. Once a thriving town, the original settlement of St. Stephens was completely abandoned by 1927.
Traces of life in the original town of St. Stephens can be seen within the cases of the museum. Pottery, china, nails and hinges, along with photographs of the first newspaper, The Halycon, are evidence of the county’s bright beginnings.
Timber, turpentine and transportation
The county’s rich timber industry is highlighted in the museum, along with the turpentine business that is yielded by the pine-rich forests in the county. Turpentine is an oil that can be obtained from the resin of pine trees. It is highly flammable and in the decades prior to electricity, it was used as lamp fuel. Although Washington County no longer is a large producer of turpentine, turpentine is still a very viable product. It is sold in hardware stores and art supply stores and is used as a water repellent, paint thinner and solvent. Historically, turpentine was used medicinally in Washington County and throughout the South. During the Civil War, it was used to treat soldiers’ infections. In addition to turpentine, the pines of Washington County have been tapped for their pine tar which continues to be an ingredient in medications for skin disorders. Between 1840 and 1930, turpentine distilling was a major industry in the county.
The turpentine industry promoted economic growth and development as well as industrial expansion in Washington County. With this came various forms of transportation. From mule or horse and buggy to the Model-T Ford and eventually to passenger and transport rail, the Washington County museum showcases the transition to automation in this area. While rail travel has decreased due to the availability of personal automobiles, regional airports and lack of infrastructure, Washington County’s railways continue to contribute to the efficiency of industry in the area. There are five Class 1 railroads in Washington County’s chemical corridor.
Farming is no longer the primary source of income in Washington County, however it does continue to be an important element in the county’s economy. Encased in the courthouse basement are antique farming tools, a spinning wheel, and antique, handmade quilts. Interior designers seek such items for simplistic décor, but the items encased were constructed and used for their functionality, rather than for their beauty.
Leaving the farming and homestead area of the museum and turning the corner into a new room, one notices typewriters, both manual and electric along the perimeter. A large wooden file system, now obsolete, is displayed, once having been in use upstairs in the probate office. Eight-track tape players, vinyl record machines and tape recorders are on exhibit to help the younger visitor understand the great advances that have taken place in technology just during the lifetime of their parents. A wedding gown from the 1960s and several artifacts from Washington County Schools including wooden desks and retro band and football uniforms and helmets are on display. A poster related to the “Space Race” of the 1980s is an excellent conversation piece as well.
Patriotism and faith
The citizens of Washington County are known for their love of God and country. This is not new. The Washington County Museum houses a collection of military uniforms, regalia and memorabilia generously donated by citizens who have served in various wars throughout the 200-year history of Alabama. A wall honors those who lost their lives in these battles. The names and hometowns of the fallen are listed, along with the conflict in which they were killed.
The churches of Washington County also have their place within the museum. Church hymnals, photos and bulletins are encased. A drive through the main roads and the backroads of the county will allow a traveler to see the many churches throughout the various communities and towns. While denominations vary, there remains evidence of the faith of the people who built Alabama’s first county.
The Washington County Museum is filled with items that would have been functional and necessary for life through two centuries in Alabama. Wooden bowls, pottery, metal tools, manual plows and spinning wheels represent the strong work ethic, but the people of Washington County also enjoy the beautiful things in life. Art and literacy are among these things. The talented Maribeth Tatum Turner carved exquisite designs from the eggs of ostriches, geese and rheas. These intricately detailed creations are a source of pride for the museum. These are displayed in the final room of the museum, the Betty Scott Room.
Betty Scott and her husband Howard Gordon Scott were instrumental in the legal and literary realms of Washington County. They were vital in starting the first library and championed the cause of literacy within the county. Betty Scott left her art collection and her many dish collections to the museum. These rare and beautiful items can be seen daily.
A recent addition to the museum demonstrates the love for music that many share throughout the county. A beautiful pipe organ was generously donated last month. It is well-preserved and beautifully carved and its sound is gorgeous despite its age.
The Washington County Museum is open any day that the courthouse is open. It is located on the basement level and is well worth a walk through. There is no charge to view the items. Curator Ashlea Singleton welcomes both new residents of the county and well-established residents, along with visitors, to journey through time and history in Washington County.
Searcy Hospital History
he goal of the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s closing of Searcy Hospital in Mount Vernon in October 2012 was to transition patients into community-based programs that would provide the least restrictive environment for them, allowing them to live their potential in the community. Some patients have benefited from day treatment programs, in-home intervention programs and group homes, but many still lack the proper treatment.
Both Mount Vernon Mayor Terry Williams and Dr. Bert Eichold of the Mobile County Health Department have reached out to Gov. Kay Ivey’s office to appeal to her to repurpose and reopen the century old facility.
Alcohol, drug abuse treatment
Eichold would like to see the Alabama Department of Corrections take over the facility and form a program that emphasizes alcohol and drug abuse treatment. Eichold sees the property as a place where nonviolent offenders could go to focus on their mental health and substance abuse needs while learning job training. Mobile Metro Jail Warden Trey Oliver says that since the doors of Searcy Hospital closed, there has been an increase in mentally ill inmates at the jail. Currently about 10 percent of Metro’s population depends on medication for daily functioning, while many others are in isolation due to their severe mental illness symptoms.
The old military barracks in 1917.
Eichold’s answer is this, “Make the major emphasis for treating alcohol and substance abuse. Searcy was designed as a mental health hospital; could it be a mental health correctional facility?”
In his letter to the governor, Eichold requested that the administration consider using the old Searcy Hospital buildings for such a facility. Gov. Ivey’s response stated that while she would like to see both jobs and treatment return to the Mount Vernon area, the infrastructure cost would be “millions of dollars.” Eichold expressed his frustration by saying, “I’m always discouraged when we say we don’t have enough money to do what we need to do, but I understand how complex of an issue this is. Why not reactivate Searcy? We already own it. I know it’s cheaper to fix something up than it is to build something new.”
Geronimo was a prisoner at Mt. Vernon.
Infrastructure a concern
The response from the Alabama Department of Mental Health echoed Ivey’s statements, citing the lack of infrastructure as a major concern.
Searcy Hospital is a historic site. It consists of more than 30 historic buildings that are slowly being swallowed by the effects of time, neglect and apathy. It was originally the site of Mount Vernon Arsenal, founded in 1828. The site is one of two of America’s original 14 arsenals. The other, located in Kennebec, Maine, also became an asylum.
Military encampment in 1812
The site was established in 1811 as an inland military encampment. It was built three miles inland in hopes of avoiding the mosquitoes that swarmed the Tombigbee River. General Andrew Jackson utilized the site during the War of 1812.
In 1828, Congress authorized construction of Mount Vernon Arsenal as one of 14 to be built nationally in an effort to create a unified defense. The arsenal was completed in 1836 and encompassed by a 12-foot wall.
The arsenal was seized by the Alabama militia in 1861 and turned over to the Confederacy. Equipped with only 17 soldiers and General J.L. Reno, the federal government regained control at the end of the war. For the next 30 years, more buildings were added to the site.
Geronimo held at Mt. Vernon
For a seven-year period between 1887 and 1894, 400 Chiricahua Apache prisoners of war were housed at the arsenal including the famous Chief Geronimo. None of these individuals were ever charged with crimes. The Indians were transferred to an Okalahoma reservation in 1894.
From 1887-1890, U.S. Army physician Walter Reed served as a surgeon at the site and treated the Apache. It was Reed who confirmed that Yellow Fever was transmitted by mosquitoes.
Became mental health hospital
The site was decommissioned as a military post in 1895 and the state of Alabama was granted ownership. The site sat abandoned until 1900 when it became Mount Vernon Hospital for the Colored Insane, an asylum established to provide care for mentally ill African Americans. The state gave $25,000 to start the hospital and for two years new buildings were constructed. In 1902, the first patients and staff arrived.
One of the first intensive disease studies in the United States took place at the site in 1906. A disease known as Italian Pellagra, which caused suicidal thoughts and blistering skin was reported among the patients. It was believed that the cause of the illness was the ingestion of “Indian Corn” or dried corn.
Dr. George H. Searcy studied the patients and determined that their infirmities were caused by eating moldy cornmeal. None of the medical staff ate the cornmeal and none became ill. The facility was renamed for Dr. Searcy in 1919.
Surgery was added to the myriad of services provided by the hospital. This meant that patients no longer had to be transferred to receive surgical services. In 1969, Alabama psychiatric hospitals were desegregated. White patients were now admitted to Searcy Hospital and black patients were now admitted to Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa. During these years, Searcy Hospital was described as a beautiful place where patients received expert care.
Court ruling changed care
In 1970, Alabama ranked last among all 50 states for expenditures related to the care of mentally ill individuals or developmentally delayed individuals living in public institutions. A landmark court case, Wyatt V. Stigney, established baseline care and treatment guidelines for institutionalized individuals. Sadly, until the ruling, Alabama’s institutions were used as a dumping ground for individuals who were problematic to their families or society. The 1971 ruling stated that, “There can be no legal (or moral) justification for the State of Alabama’s failing to afford treatment—and adequate treatment from a medical standpoint” to mentally ill patients. The ruling forced change in the entire mental health system in Alabama. It also required that institutions attempt to place patients in the community with adequate follow-up treatment.
State funding for community mental health programs grew throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Modern wards were constructed at Searcy. There were 400 extended-care beds available and 124 intermediate-care beds.
Closed in 2012
By the year 2000, many of the buildings on the campus of Searcy Hospital were in disrepair and in derelict condition. On Feb. 15, 2012, it was announced that the facility would be closed by the state. The last admissions were taken in September 2012 with the hospital closing on Oct. 31, 2012, leaving several hundred patients in limbo, searching for adequate care in rural Alabama and approximately 300 employees looking for work.
The campus of Searcy Hospital is barricaded and an occasional security guard or squirrel is the only sign of life. Kudzu covers many buildings and a 12-foot high brick fence blocks an onlooker’s view. There are as many as 13 pre- Civil War structures on the campus, but these are rapidly decaying. The Alabama Department of Mental Health still owns the property.
This campus is beautiful and historic, but with the beauty and history is mixed sadness. Sadness for the historic structures that are being lost mixes easily with sadness for the ones who are buried on the grounds with no grave markers and for those who are still struggling to find the help that they need.
The Importance of Grandparents
The importance of grandparents
By: Shannon Courington
Until I had kids, I didn’t realize that Grandparents’ Day was a holiday, even though President Jimmy Carter signed the legislation to recognize the first Sunday after Labor Day as such in 1978. I just missed it somehow, but for me, almost every day was grandparents’ day. I was fortunate enough to know both sets of grandparents, two sets of great-grandparents and one great-grandmother. Blessed (and possibly spoiled) is an understatement.
Prior to having children, I assumed that Grandparents’ Day was a “Hallmark” holiday, established for commercialism and the sale of greeting cards. I have since learned differently. In 1956, Marian McQuade a mom in West Virginia, decided to plan a community event to honor those over 80, and especially those living in nursing facilities. McQuade felt that grandparents, especially those in the nursing home in her community, were somehow forgotten. She wanted to recognize all grandparents and her efforts were finally recognized. In 1973, West Virginia became the first state to have an official Grandparents’ Day celebration and with Carter’s proclamation in 1978, the national holiday was established.
As one who was raised within walking distance of one set of grandparents and a great-grandmother and within 15 minutes from the rest, I can attest to the importance of having involved grandparents. Involved grandparents provide additional support and provide the family lore that reminds the parents that they too were children (even teenagers) once upon a time.
Being raised in close proximity to grandparents has its advantages. The bonds that are created last a lifetime. I am thankful that right now, I can pick up the phone and call my grandmother and talk with her about anything under the sun. She is definitely my person, and while she is legally my grandmother, she is honestly a perfect friend and prayer partner. Because of my mother’s foresight to make sure that I knew and spent time with each of the many grandparents and great-grandparents, I have fond memories of each one who is no longer with me. She also insisted on taking photographs with them. To me, these are a treasure.
As a parent, I’ll say that there are also disadvantages to having the grandparents close by. They know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING. Usually, they will give unsolicited advice to parents. They also tend to overindulge their grandchildren and often.
Considering all, the advantages to having your children’s grandparents in close proximity vastly outweigh the disadvantages. The bonds that your children build with their grandparents will never be destroyed. If your children are involved in school and community events, they have an additional cheering section, and in our case, transportation to and from practices when jobs prevent mom and dad from doing it. Grandparents are a soft place to land when nothing is going right in a child’s world. In a child’s mind, parents are usually the least informed, but there is much to be said about the wisdom of the generation above the parents. In addition to wisdom, support and transportation, grandparents also add a layer of security and protection for young people. In a world inundated with threats, this assurance is so important.
Not all grandparents can be at every event or are available every weekend. Distance, schedules and circumstances sometimes prevent this. However, there are still ways to be involved. Many grandparents now have iPhones. Use FaceTime. If the grandparents are on social media, share pictures. For the more traditional grandparents, teach your child to write them cards and letters. Send them pictures. I’d be shocked if their grandparents didn’t respond.
If for some reason, there are no grandparents in your children’s lives, seek out surrogate grandparents, older than yourself, so that the wisdom of an older generation can be imparted to your children. Look for elderly people in your neighborhood, church and community that may need some company and get to know them. As much as children need grandparents, the aging population also needs to be remembered. Thank you, Marian McQuade for the reminder.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.