Inter-generational Buddies: Celebrating Grandparents
As parents, one of our subconscious fears seems to be that we are turning into our own parents. When you hear something your own mother used to say repeatedly throughout your childhood coming out of your own mouth, the realisation dawns – she wasn’t being mean, she was just being a parent. As clichéd as it sounds, it really only is when you become a parent/guardian yourself that you realise what your parents did for you. They walked the floors and soothed you as you cried and they guided you through tantrums, homework and heartbreak. October 1st marked the United Nations International Day of the Older Person so what better time to reflect on the role of grandparents and other significant older people in your child’s life?
The relationship between a grandparent and grandchild is often described as one of privilege. Grandparents talk about being able to ‘spoil’ grandchildren with treats, without having to discipline them, with the added bonus of being able to ‘hand them back’. We often find it hard to reconcile the memory of strict parents with these far more relaxed, fun-loving grandparents! The trick is to relish that difference and to encourage the two generations – the one above you and the one behind you – to spend quality time together and to learn from each other. Many older people may be at the point in their lives where they are working less or may even be retired so they have time to spend with children. A crèche or school-pick is a great way to provide an insight into your child’s life, plus the novelty of having Granny or Grandad coming to school is always exciting to small children. Try to think beyond the babysitting role that so many grandparents play and look at ways to actively support your child’s relationship with your own parents. It could be going to the library to find a book that they used to read to you as a child that they can now share with their grandchild. Maybe it’s baking something together, or walking together around favourite Limerick places. The possibilities are endless but the interaction between them is priceless.
In addition to grandparents, encouraging your children to enjoy relationships with older people is important. Whether it’s some morning banter with an older neighbour on the way to school or attending cultural events that celebrate positive ageing (photography exhibitions, sales of work etc.), modelling respect and interaction gives your child very important life skills. It teaches them that diversity includes age – we meet people from all walks of life and, as older people have lived longer, they remember things that we have never known. Take a 7 year-old who is obsessed with Penneys, for example. An older person could tell them that it used to be called Cannock’s and explain why the clock was installed there. Or they might explain how shops like Penneys didn’t exist in their childhoods, so instead they learnt how to sew, mend and embellish their own clothes. That could be a shared interest that develops into a little project of its own.
Inter-generational relationships benefit all those involved. It’s about stepping away from stereotypical images of knitting grandmothers and walking stick –wielding grandfathers. It’s about valuing a space where two age groups can share experiences and provide each other with an insight into a different generation. One might prefer a newspaper over a Kindle and the other may refuse to believe that there was ever a time when Santa only brought oranges but the sharing of those stories is the basis of a very special relationship.
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick.