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.