What are you doing with your grandchildren?

Post 2 What are you doing with Your Grandchildren?

Last week I wrote about my own grandparents and their gifts to me as I was growing up. I also mentioned some of the ways my children had benefited from having grandparents. What I did not explain was why it has been so important during these later years to know my own grandchildren.

 When I began researching my genealogy I discovered that all of my grandparents had come ‘from away’. At the time I was simply doing family history research, out of curiosity and so that my children would have a record should they ever wish to go back further. And then a surprise – my youngest daughter remarried and produced a child. What excitement! Having had no expectation of ever being a grandmother – my other two children had made different choices – I was thrust into learning about the meaning of ‘Grandma.’

This daughter lives a 10 hour drive or a 1 ½ hour plane ride away. I went to her asking to be a part of her child’s life. With her enthusiastic assent I began finding ways of seeing him every two months. Without frequency it would have been easy to lose our comfortable relationship. Now there are two other children in that very busy household and I look forward to being with them whenever I can. Sometimes it is to give Grandma-care when there are just too many priorities in their parent’s lives, other times they come here, or we vacation together.

Each visit is precious time spent as I learn more about the developing personalities and interests of each child. We have fun together in new-to-them ways, like the ritual of a tea party with real china and tablecloth we have begun together, puzzles and games they teach me, time spent in the water learning of its powers and delights.

Whenever I consider how fortunate I am to be able to come to know the children at all, I am reminded that my own grandmothers had no similar grandparent relationship available to their children. My paternal grandparents emigrated from Norway as a young couple and their three children had no connection with the ‘old country’ where they had come from. My maternal grandmother came from Belgium as a child, with a similar result.

I find myself agonizing about how sad it is that both of my parents and their siblings did not have benefit of shared experiences with grandparents. The loneliness for the familiarity and support of family members those mothers felt in their new country would have been dreadful. I salute them for all they endured and although they have passed on, I thank them again for their gifts to me.

What do you do for your grandchildren?

Post 1 – What do you do for your grandchildren?

A bright sunny day in July seems the right time to begin blogging about the things that are important to me. I hope you will find them of relevance to your life and decide to follow along the path where these irregular posts lead.

My first question, “What do you do for your grandchildren?” brings to mind the gifts my grandparents offered me. Most significant is the life skills I learned from my Norwegian grandmother, my Dad’s mother. She showed me how to knit, to crochet, to embroidery, to make and serve coffee and when I was old enough to manage with my left hand guiding the fabric and the right hand turning the handle, how to sew a simple seam on her hand cranked sewing machine.

We had no electricity there, no refrigeration or roads to the outside world; we were essentially locked in by water and our escape was by water. With her quiet assured manner Grandma Gunhild, who I called White Nano for her silver white hair, made everyday life lessons interesting. Until I was nine years old she was a daily influence on me.

My mother’s mother, Little Nano, was as different from White Nano as she could have been. Short and solid with a wide range of farm and gardening knowledge she taught me the difference between the weeds and the cultivated plants as we moved together along the rows, showed me how to thin beets, turnips and carrots, called upon me to pick the peas and beans and let me feed the chickens and collect the eggs, all life skills in her world but not as significant in mine. My grandfather’s made their own contribution to my knowledge of life but that story is for another time.

Dead now for twenty years, I’ve had some time to think about what my own parents gave to my three children. They came to visit us regularly and were present at every Christmas and family celebration, taking a serious interest in what each of them was interested in and what they were doing. I think the important thing is they were present in their young lives and made a positive impression on it.

In my opinion, perhaps also in the view of the children, Grandma and Grandpa, from the time the child were five or six years old took each grandchild separately for a week of ‘summer holiday.’ My parents had a truck and camper rig in which they went out to the forest back roads for extended periods. Their aluminum boat loaded on top and with assorted gear and games packed away, they managed to successfully amuse each young one they happened to have with them at the time. Some days it was trout fishing, others berry picking, swimming, or exploration hiking along the lake or stream’s edge. Helping with the campfire, cooking on the two burner stove, washing dishes, all became part of what they learned to help with.

The children came home suntanned and dirty from their week away telling stories of the fun they had and the people, and animals, they had seen and met. For us at home that week we were dealing with a different configuration of children and as much as possible took the opportunity to spend time according to their preferences. When the siblings came together again there seemed to be a settling in time during which everyone shared stories about what the other part of the family had missed.

Although what my husband and I will be able to offer will be quite different than what my folks undertook I hope we will be able to offer ‘summer holiday’ time to each of our three grandchildren soon I have spoken to my daughter about it and she enthusiastically agrees with the concept. Other ideas next time . . . .