(My blog on The enduring importance of Grandparents from 2015, re-visited and edited now I’m hoping to move into the third of my ‘Mullins Family Saga’ which will see the three generations all growing older. And now that ‘Grandparent Duty’ has come to us!)
We’ve just (again) been on a writing weekend at Scargill in the Yorkshire Dales, where we re-met many friends. Our hosts and leaders, Adrian and Bridget, are brilliant, full of fun, and steeped in wisdom. In fact, they seem like everyone’s favourite wise, funny, positive, uncle and auntie – or, … like grandparents. Listening. Encouraging. Moving in the group sessions through the laughs to the sadnesses and back – giving out warm feelings.
An experience which, if we are blessed, we get from grandparents – who are there to care and who, when we have tired them out with caring, ‘give us back’ to our sterner, always more harassed, parents.
This got me thinking: Grandparents have homes are full of ‘old fashioned’ objects: the year we lived with my paternal grandparents, Grandma was still using a flat-iron, heating it on the coal-fired boiler. (Okay, it was still the 1950s!) They have time, skills, and interesting stories of ‘long ago’. Ideas to stimulate an interest in social history. Their childhoods, in another age, are intriguing. Milk coming round in a churn, on a cart? (Goes back a long way, that one: to my ‘other Granny’!) One of my grandfathers kept prisms on the windowsill in his study: I remember him showing me how the prisms divided light into rainbow colours. An introduction to science.
RAISED BY GRANDPARENTS
I can count many friends who’ve been almost or totally raised by grandparents: some whose Mum has been unable to mother for some reason, and Grandma has lived in and been the main carer. Others whose grandparents have lived until the grandchildren are grown and gone from home: the grief of these adult friends when the grandparents die is a poignant reminder of the enormous emotional importance of the grandparent/grandchild bond.
Worldwide, grandparents, especially grandmothers, are carers. Tradition seems to dictate that those who can no longer bear babies care for babies … and for older children. In many places, grandmothers care full-time, while mothers work.
And since HIV/AIDS has orphaned thousands of children, grandparents in many countries must care full-time, often for the children of more than one family.
Here in Britain, many grandparents are daily carers of children, often chosen in preference to child-minders, or nurseries. An Age UK report gives figures: Two-fifths (40%) of the nation’s grandparents over the age of 50 – five million – have provided regular childcare for their grandchildren… The survey revealed that the vast majority (89%) of the five million grandparents who provided regular care do so at least once a week…*
If families break up, or parents can’t cope, grandparents may find themselves starting over again as full-time, possibly legal, parents.
‘PENSIONERS’ OR VITAL RESOURCES?
In our area, all houses were delivered booklets on resources for the elderly: from ‘Over-50’s Yoga’ to (a particularly unpleasant thought) a ‘Dementia Cafe’ for Alzheimers sufferers and their carers …These leaflets though useful to some residents were a little scary …
Clearly the concept of ‘pensioners’ needs updating: some are making a contribution as worthwhile and lively (and vital to the ‘economy’) than any other workers.
A FINAL THOUGHT
Grandparents may belong to a ‘bygone age’ – but strangely, their ideas, attitudes and behaviour seems to appeal and endear them to kids! They are not mere spent grey-heads …Perhaps we should begin to take their views on society more seriously? Fun, and wisdom, garnered as a harvest from many years’ experience.
*Source: Age UK (2017)