"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Modern grandparents have much to teach — and learn — from the little ones

By on August 24, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments
June Darling

By June Darling

When I was in my late 20s, Jimmy Carter declared that we should honor grandparents on Sept. 8. The day would be set aside to appreciate the joy and wisdom grandparents bring.

I’m not sure Jimmy had any idea in the ’70s how involved grandparents would be in the 21st century. 

These days, many grandparents live longer and are in good physical shape. 

It is not unusual for me to hear my friends talking about their grandchildren’s graduation, marriages, even the birth of their grandchildren’s children. 

This more intensive grandparenting can be a good thing for both grandparents and grandchildren in terms of well-being and resilience.

That’s not to say it’s all easy, particularly in the beginning. 

John and I needed to update our skills and learning. 

We learned not to put newborns on their tummies and to get rid of all those cute crib quilts, pillows, and bumpers.

 We have learned how to deal with squabbling siblings using love, empathy, logic and consequences rather than the swats, rewards and threats we often resorted to in our parenting days. 

We’ve become more thoughtful about what sort of grandparents we want to be and how to achieve our goals. 

For the last three years we have conducted what we call “Grand Camp.” 

We want to have fun, connect the family, foster independence and a sense of adventure in addition to providing opportunities for mental, social and physical growth. 

John knows a lot about all manner of flora and fauna. He loves to hike, jump on the trampoline, swim, play tag and do all things outdoor and active. I like to make sure there is time for reading, art, music, games, scavenger hunts, stories and just kicking back. 

We hang out at home, at Lake Wenatchee, and sometimes boat to places in Puget Sound like Blake Island where kids can kayak, find shells, beach glass, and raccoons. 

It is fun. And it is also exhausting. I hope we ARE bringing that joy and wisdom Jimmy envisioned. 

Each year, in September, as school begins, I think not only about our grandchildren, but about all the children. Our collective heads are spinning in many directions, we all have agendas, but can we all agree on the importance of the children… all the children?

Several decades ago, in a sermon entitled And How Are All The Children? Rev. Patrick T. O’Neill urged us to contemplate a world, a nation, a community, which starts off every encounter and every meeting with that question — and how are all the children?

What might happen if we heard and how are all the children asked many times every day? What might happen if we expected everyone, not only teachers, parents, and grandparents, but also politicians, police, entrepreneurs, administrators, neighbors and non-parents — everyone to seriously ponder and address this question?

Rev. O’Neill evidently came up with this sermon after being told that “kasserian ingera” (how are the children) is the traditional question first asked when Maasai warriors of Kenya and Tanzania meet. It signifies their top value. The expected answer is “All the children are well.” 

Whether that is true of the Maasai I do not know. No matter. 

The question O’Neill raises, the vision the question invites is not only noble, but engenders hope and direction during troubled, confused, attention-scattered national times. 

What might happen if we all took a breath, stepped back, and asked: “And how are all the children?” In what sort of world could we answer, “All the children are well?”

I see my grandchildren doing well in many ways. They are bright — can help me figure out how to use my smartphone to do all sorts of cool stuff. 

They have also somehow sucked in what I would call ancient wisdom and updated it for today. For example, six-year-old Anna gave me a piece of her mind about growing up and becoming a “big person.”

 “You are a big person when you say you are sorry if you accidentally hit someone. If you are kind, if you share, if you play with everyone, don’t brag, don’t hit, aren’t mean, don’t break things, don’t complain about your bloody toes and having to go to the nurse, and if you talk to homeless people, and… if you don’t quit games when you don’t win.”

Anna’s grounded philosophy and the number of folks in her corner give her a solid foundation for living the good life. 

My friend, and education expert, Dr. Gene Sharratt (who introduced me to the sermon by Rev. O’Neill) reminds me that all the children are not doing well, however. The causes are often related to poverty, social, and emotional distress… and having few folks on their side.

We, particularly the elders, can do something about that.

Evolutionary theorists have wondered why it is that humans continue to live 40 and even 50 years beyond our reproductive years. 

Proposed answers are the elders can provide resources, skills and presence for the youngsters. Research confirms elders can confer advantages.

September is the perfect month to celebrate grandparents, to examine the well-being of our young people, and to consider how we can help… as grandparents, neighbors and mentors. 

Perhaps we can offer enthusiasm for certain activities and skills; perhaps money, time, or other resources like love, attentive listening and encouragement. 

And we can keep lobbying… asking the question — and how are the children?

How might we move up to The Good Life by ensuring all the children are well?

June Darling, Ph.D. can be contacted at drjunedarling1@gmail.com; website: www.summitgroupresources.com. Her bio and many of her books can be found at amazon.com/author/junedarling.

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