By Loraine Debnam
Leading up to the 88th Academy Awards, I watched an interview with actress Diane Ladd who plays the grandmother in the movie “Joy.” Her comment was most parents today are in “survival mode” and grandparents have an important and necessary part to play in helping their families cope. Since she has ten grandchildren of her own, I suspect she has had some experience in that real-life role.
Recognizing financial concerns top the list for this “survival mode” comment, I think there is another issue that adds to the pressure — no time.
We have broken families, blended families, single-parent families, single-income families and even some with two parents and two incomes. But, they all go short on the time they have in an average day. If, as grandparents, we have the extra time, we can certainly ease some of the stress. Depending, of course, on our own job status and/or any significant health matters we may be dealing with.
In some other cultures, grandparents are a part of the daily family routine, many actually living in the same home and having considerable influence and input into family decisions. While that is not really the norm here in western society, we still can be of assistance. If their home life is a bit rocky through no fault of theirs, we may be able to provide our grandchildren with some stability, an oasis of calm and peace, a respite from chaos, and our undivided attention.
If we have nurtured our relationship with our adult children, the spin-off is they too will reap some of the benefit, even if it’s only time to have a coffee and a visit with a friend they trust, see a doctor or take an uninterrupted bubble bath.
We can offer both generations unconditional love, patience, kindness and comfort. It’s important to realize though, while our own life experiences have taught us some things, we must still be respectful of parental roles. It won’t help anyone if they view us as intrusive and interfering.
If we have been blessed to have had early bonding opportunities, we are a part of their growth and development and can give them many gifts (not stuff) that will remain with them.
Interest in school activities, participation in celebrations and sharing of traditions that give meaning to family history are all part of the example of not just giving them a good time but having fun together. It makes for wonderful stories and happy memories to look back on.
Conversely, there are some grandparents who live a distance away and have less frequent contact. That does not mean we cannot stay connected.
In this era of modern technology, the phone and e-mail become very precious tools at our disposal. I have a good friend who spends time weekly with each of her grandkids in Ontario using “Face Time,” selfies and videos. We have come a long way from those “once a year” birthday cards with a dollar bill tucked in them.
For most grandparents, reaching a certain age means taking smaller steps and a loss of some physical flexibility but the bonus is we slow down and savour the time spent with our grandchildren.
It’s something to appreciate and be grateful for I think. Someone once wrote, “grandparents are much younger on the inside than they look on the outside.”