BY LINDA SWANSON, RETIRED ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL
We are so busy with the cares of life. Our children are distracted by so many things. It is easy to slide right over the important things in life. We know that spending time and building relationships with family is important but time slips by. It seems difficult to believe, but perhaps much of the same was true in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson declared the
second Sunday of May as Mother's Day and when in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday of June as Father's Day. So what should be happening on these days and similar days like Grandparent's Day celebrated in the fall?
For sure it's more than giving a card - it's to honor these precious members of our families. Their care and love for us and our children is truly something to be acknowledged more than a few times a year. The influence they have on our lives is something we live out each day. Taking time on these days to intentionally keep our parent's heritage alive and to make memories for our children is an important way to honor them.
I had the privilege of knowing my mother's parents quite well. I observed the respect and care my mother had for them. It didn't take a special day to observe her honor them, it was her routine. I loved spending time with them and especially listening to everyone talk, if the topic arose, about the days when they were raising my mom, aunt and uncles. Unfortunately for me, I never knew my father's parents but I remember, clearly, the stories both my parents told me about them. I really enjoyed the loving way they talked about them, even more than the details of the story. Thinking back on it now, they wanted me to know they were special to them. I cherish the fact that I share my grandmother's name and actually have some tangible items from her home. For our family, these connecting moments were around the dinner table or while taking a Sunday afternoon ride and even spread throughout gatherings of extended family throughout the year.
The grand in front of the title parent simply means a parent higher in rank. Parent is a word that means to produce or maintain. Being a "grand parent" means one has been promoted in rank, given an entitled permission to maintain what has been produced. It seems to me that grandparents never assume this position as a burden but rather they actually have an inner need and desire to connect with their grandchildren.
Developing relationships with people of different age groups is a gift we want our children to explore. After all, when you're the mother or father on your designated day, grandparents end up being honored too because they were parents first. Grandparents and parents are the "library" for our children, connecting them with their past. Grandparents can teach all of us about the family's early history, about the obstacles each family overcame and what has made their stories unique.
Now I know that some of you are reading this and you don't live near your parents or perhaps your parents have passed away. In the case of long distance relationships, connect by phone, e-mail or letter writing. Is there a great aunt or uncle who could share some time with your child? Perhaps there's an available senior citizen in your neighborhood or church who might like to connect with your child in a nurturing relationship. I remember the disappointment I experienced, for our seven year old daughter when my husband's mother passed away. I knew the impact my mother-in-law could have had on her life. But soon our young child connected with grandma's sister who reminded her of her Granny. This great aunt shared so much of what her sister would have wanted to pass down to our daughter, even her faith.
Children need not only mothers and fathers who are dedicated to them but also older adults who are invested in their lives.
The people most qualified to fulfill that responsibility are loving grandmas and grandpas who are passionately committed to them and discuss the important things of life - with an understanding and perspective that one just can't get without having lived it. If you find it difficult to think of the things you believe your children would enjoy knowing about their grandparents, choose a book, one that even gives your parents the opportunity to journal about their experiences. Two examples are: A Journal Of Faith and Love Grandmother's Memories by Thomas Kinkade or Grandpa, Tell me Your Memories created by Kathleen Lashier.
Having a connection with a grandparent makes children feel special. It builds their self-esteem to know there is an extended family that loves them. A sense of identity develops as children learn about their roots. They discover that grandparents have time to listen with interest, to play, laugh and even share their virtues and ideals that often empower their grandchildren to have the confidence to make wise decisions long after they leave home.
These special days are just the beginning of the enormous benefit connecting your children with their grandparents can make. Back in 1914 President Wilson actually invited the people of the United States to display their flag at their homes on Mother's Day as a public expression of their love and reverence for the mothers of our country. So fly your flag this year even if it's only connecting the memories that make our present so important.
Linda Swanson, retired Southwestern Elementary Principal. She earned her B.A. degree from Houghton College and M.S. in Early Childhood Education from Fredonia State. Mrs. Swanson is a lifelong resident of southwestern New York State. Her early teaching experience was at Randolph Elementary. She currently enjoys substitute teaching and volunteering at Z.E.A.L., an after school tutoring program at Zion Covenant church and also a volunteer for Love Inc.