Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my last surviving grandparent’s death and I wish that I could somehow get Superman to fly around the Earth backwards to be able to go back in time and spend more time with all of my grandparents. I would love to watch a baseball game with my grandpa Eugene, sit and listen to stories of my grandmother Julia, hug my grandma Ruth, hear my grandpa Francis tell jokes, eat my grandma Lily’s incredible schwartzbeeren pie, or conspiratorially sneak candy with my grandpa Jim.
In many countries around the world, multi-generational or multi-family homes are the norm; grandparents, parents, children, and even extended family live together. The whole family functions as one organism and everyone has some sort of role or responsibility. The United States has moved away from this type of living situation, but it may soon become more common as the Baby Boomer generation ages and requires more one-on-one care.
As a child, time spent with grandparents is usually taken for granted. In your own childish self-absorbed way you don’t really understand that someday they won’t be around. And when you realize how great they are, it is often too late. There are so many things I wish I could have asked my grandparents. I wish I could have found out more family history, asked what it was like to raise their children, hear about time in the Army during WWII, and more.
I am so happy that my children get to spend so much time with their grandparents. My husband’s parents graciously watch my kids each day; they are able to do this because they are retired. It helps my husband and I afford to be able to send our daughter to preschool, something we would not be able to afford if we had to pay for daycare.
Benefits for grandparents
Depression affects more than 6.5 million people 65 or older for a variety of reasons, like a family history of depression, illness, grief, isolation and less social interaction with others outside the home, among others. But, good news: a US News article reports that, “Spending quality time with grandchildren while they’re children improves mental health, too, according to a 2014 study from the Journal of the American Gerontological Society. It linked having more bonding moments to lower risk of depression among grandparents.” Being around little ones increases happiness and feelings of being needed and wanted, something everyone wants and needs in their life.
Being around grandchildren on a regular basis helps keep the older adults active too. “Results indicate that grandparents are physically active with their grandchildren.
Fifty-three percent said they had exercised or played sports with their
grandchildren in the past six months. At least 50 percent of grandparents in each
age group reported exercising or playing sports with their grandchildren,” says data from the Grandparent Study of 2002 by the AARP. Another study shows that regular time spent with grandchildren also increases longevity and a grandparent’s life expectancy. Isn’t that awesome?
Several grandparents that I’ve spoken to say that they treasure the time they spend with grandkids because they are able to develop relationships with their grandchildren that they may not have been able to have with their own children when they were younger, busier, and more stressed as young parents.
There are wonderful benefits for kids and parents too.
My children spending time daily with their grandparents helps me not worry about how a childcare provider is taking care of my kids; I know they are in a safe and loving environment. If I am running late leaving work I don’t have to worry about a daycare provider needing to leave or charging me extra. If I can’t leave work to pick up my daughter at preschool due to being stuck in a meeting, I know they can pick her up.
Having grandparents around is incredibly helpful in times of need when unexpected situations arise. For example, my in-laws were able to take care of my daughter while I was in the hospital for my emergency c-section and recovery after having my son. This past week my husband’s brother had a routine hernia surgery but ended up having complications due to an unknown drug allergy and instead of being able to go home the day of his surgery, he had to stay in the hospital for four days. His mom and dad were so kind and gracious to be able to take care of their two youngest children at the drop of a hat, making a stressful and emotionally difficult situation easier.
The children get to build relationships and create memories that will last a lifetime. “Hanging out with grandma and grandpa gives your children the chance to relate to people other than you and your partner. Your children will learn how to be nice, how to be caring, how to act when you aren’t around and how to follow rules that might be different than the rules in your home,” says Parenting.com. The children get to observe role models besides their parents and learn life skills like sharing, interacting with others, manners, and more. Grandparents are able to share their values and beliefs and also their life experiences and family history.
My mother-in-law does learning activities with the kids each day (my children and my niece). They get to “help” grandpa tinker around in the garage, something I enjoyed so much as a child. They love getting to bake cookies, plant flowers, go to story hour at the library, or just sit and snuggle in the rocking chair.
My parents visit whenever possible and the children love to show off a newly colored picture, have silly tea parties, play dinosaurs, or read books. They enjoy calling grandma and grandpa on the weekend and have a conversation about just about anything over the speaker phone.
I am so appreciative of all of my children’s grandparents and the many things they do for us, especially all the love and attention they give to my kids. They truly are a blessing in so many ways.