“Grandparents are like bolognese: reliable and unique to every family”
Carrie Bickmore believes there is much to be learnt from grandparents.
Irecently had my mum holed up in our house for a few weeks following some surgery. For two weeks, we slept in the same bed, showered together, chatted well past my bedtime (she dreads the long nights) and became familiar with shows on SBS I never knew existed. ( Great British Railway Journeys was a highlight.)
Mum and I are alike in many ways. We both live life at 110 per cent, so while no one wants to be sick, her mandatory bed rest gave me the opportunity to look after her for once, which was a nice change. For both of us.
My mum is a brilliant mother, but the relationship she has with her grandkids feels like a whole step up. I watched as the kids crawled into her bed first thing in the morning for a cup of tea, and had to be dragged out at the end of the day, having spent the evening telling stories, playing board games and cuddling. They couldn’t care less that she was bed-bound. It suited them having her undivided attention 24/7! I watched the way Mum played with them – the patience, the warmth, the enthusiasm – despite the pain she was in.
The experience made me reflect on how different it must feel being a grandparent, compared with being a parent. Maybe it’s the fact grandparents usually get to come in, play, then leave. They don’t have to worry about discipline or being the fun police. Grandparents can feed the kids as many lollies as they damn well want because they are not paying the dental bills. But maybe it’s not so black and white. These days we rely on grandparents so much for babysitting they often replace day care, so they ARE dealing with everyday parenting issues: the homework, the tantrums, the exhausting days. Maybe it’s simply to do with age and experience. They know everything is just a phase or a season and have developed a calmness most parents find hard to muster. I miss my own grandparents desperately. I was fortunate to have all my grandparents until my early thirties, and still have one grandpa and a step-grandma alive at 94. She is as sharp as a tack with a heart of gold, but still has the balls to tell me she prefers me as a blonde! My nanna and poppas all played such an important role in my life. Having my parents split up when I was three meant I often travelled back to Adelaide to stay with them. These were some of the happiest days of my life. We baked, we played cards, we knitted, we walked and we talked. I was reflecting on my nan when she passed, thinking I never remember her being stressed, rushed, angry or annoyed.
Never rushed. Maybe that’s it. Parents are always rushed (if you’re not, please email me with your miracle cure). We are trying to work, pay mortgages, remember vaccinations, and make sure our kids have gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sugar, plastic-free lunches packed and an outfit for Book Week that looks homemade. Grandparents have time. Time to hug you slowly, bake with you calmly, hear all your school dramas and play tea parties for hours. They know from their years of experience the worst feeling in the world is regret. Regret for not having had more time with us when we were kids.
Sure, occasionally Nanna can meddle a little, or innocently undermine our most recent act of discipline. And Pa can give the kids way too many soft drinks or “accidentally” let them watch a movie they shouldn’t. But we should remind ourselves that they’ve been in this world a lot longer than us, and we can learn from them an important lesson: life is short and time is precious. Carrie co-hosts The Project, 6.30pm weeknights, on Network Ten.
“They know from experience that the worst feeling in the world is regret”