I have a little tile nestled in a frame announcing that when a child is born so is a grandparent. Recently, I was blessed with yet another grandchild. I am over the moon about this amazing miracle as well as the rest of the tribe of my five Littles.
As I watched the grandchildren of George H.W. Bush eulogize their granddad, I was amazed at the legacy of it all as well as the words of love and care that was shared and the foundation that was laid for these amazing young people to succeed.
I was fortunate to live close to my grandparents. I can remember on my way home from school, I would pass my grandparents’ house, run to the back door where my grandfather would have a pealed apple, pear or banana in hand ready for me. Sometimes I would arrive when they were making homemade pasta. They would depend on me to cut the ravioli with a round curled hand-held appliance (which looked like a curly pizza cutter). Being first-generation Italian immigrants, they taught me a love for this country, the value of family connections, hard work and serving others. They taught me to be thrifty, to not be wasteful, to make things, the value of good food, sharing, outrageous hospitality (everyone was always welcome for dinner) and good manners. When my mom was working, they were frequently available to care for us. They could not help me with my homework since they only had an elementary level education, but they had street-smarts oozing out of their pores. Because they did not have the opportunity to finish school, they valued education and constantly reminded us of the imperative of getting an education. Having the love and support of grandparents, I hit the protective factor lottery.
The protective factors of having involved grandparents close by is enormous. Children receive an offer of unconditional love, family traditions, a sense of legacy, a firsthand glimpse into their parent’s childhood, surprises, companionship, attachment, a sense of belonging, and plentiful hugs and kisses. The research on how this helps a child succeed is robust and plentiful.
It is unfortunate that many children do not have these significant connections of unconditional family attachments in their young lives. Their family structure was never formed as 41 percent of children today are born outside of a marriage. If children were born to married parents, many divorced and grandparents were caught in the crossfire of family drama.
Due to the transient nature of economic opportunity and the mobility of our culture, many children do not live close to their grandparents. These families develop and maintain close relationships through frequent visits, phone calls and FaceTime. There are books that grandparents can record themselves reading a story and giving the gift of personal story time. There are other innovative ways to connect when grandparents live far away.
Grandparents are a treasure. They offer so much. They are part of an amazing circle of life that allows humans to forever connect and belong. The wonder and delight of being a grandparent is what makes life rich.
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