The wis­dom of grand­par­ents


Spe­cial to Skip­jack

To­day’s life comes with its own set of chal­lenges, many of which leave more chil­dren or­phaned or with­out par­ents ca­pa­ble of car­ing for them. So in ad­di­tion to rock­ing your golden years, you may also be chas­ing af­ter a whole new set of prog­eny, as a whole new type of par­ent — the grand­par­ent rais­ing grand­chil­dren.

The Cur­rent Pop­u­la­tion Sur­vey (CPS) of 1990-2012 tells us that dur­ing that time pe­riod, about 2.7 mil­lion grand­par­ents were “Grand­par­ent Care­givers” — grand­par­ents who have pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for grand­chil­dren less than 18 years liv­ing with them. In­stead of spoil­ing your grand­kids and then be­ing able to send them home, you are now the set­ter of dis­ci­pline and bound­aries, get­ting to be the “bad guy” a sec­ond time around.

It ac­tu­ally can be fun and there are ways you can en­joy your spe­cial grand­par­ent sta­tus while still ful­fill­ing your parental du­ties at the same time. You don’t al­ways have to be the bad guy — pam­per your grand­chil­dren, and pass on your wis­dom.

“What wis­dom?” you may ask. Read on and dis­cover for your­self:

In­door Ac­tiv­i­ties: • Balls & Ramps Ad­vo­cated by the Mary­land Sci­ence Cen­ter as a “sci­ence fun” learn­ing tool, this easy-to-do pro­ject only re­quires a few sup­plies: card­board tubes from toi­let pa­per, pa­per tow­els and wrap­ping pa­per, and a few small balls. Pet toys work, as do golf balls or mar­bles.

Use tape and scis­sors to make a roller coaster by cut­ting tubes in half to make ramps, or by cut­ting win­dows in the tubes to watch the ac­tion. This is a chance to lend your ex­per­tise while work­ing to­gether, or to give your grand­kids some­thing to do once you’ve helped them build the roller­coaster. Your grand­child can learn about speed, ac­cel­er­a­tion and move­ment by rolling the balls through the tubes. • Fam­ily Scrap­book Given your role as memory keeper, this is an op­por­tu­nity to share from where and who your grand­chil­dren come, and to help them add their own “story” to the fam­ily saga. A scrap­book can be made out of any book with blank pages. It can be as sim­ple or as elab­o­rate as you like. You prob­a­bly have fam­ily pho­tos and me­men­tos right at home that can be used to chron­i­cle and show­case who you are as a fam­ily.

Take your grand­chil­dren to a craft store and let them choose dec­o­ra­tions for their fam­ily scrap­book. Fun, a chance to ex­press their in­di­vid­u­al­ity and see them­selves within the con­text of the fam­ily that frames them, this ac­tiv­ity will bol­ster their self­es­teem and fam­ily pride.

Out­side Ac­tiv­i­ties: Spend­ing time out­side gets your grand­chil­dren out of the house, keeps them in touch with na­ture, and helps them learn about nat­u­ral sci­ence out­side of the class­room. Also, if any of your grand­chil­dren are ADHD or ADD, spend­ing time out­side is a very ef­fec­tive ground­ing tool that helps them bal­ance their busy en­ergy. • Wild An­i­mal Hunt The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay area is the per­fect place to hunt for wild an­i­mals in our own back­yards, or you can also take your grand­kids on a walk at the near­est ar­bore­tum or state park to see how many you can find. It’s fun to ob­serve an­i­mals in their nat­u­ral habi­tat, see how they move, what they look like and the mark­ings that make them spe­cial.

Prac­tice math with your grand­child by count­ing how many you find, or just en­joy the walk to­gether. One of the neat­est things my now 12-year-old and I ever got the chance to see was a snake in the mid­dle of eat­ing a toad. Gross, I know, but wow — how many kids get the chance to see some­thing like that ex­cept on tele­vi­sion?

And it hap­pened just be­cause we like to walk at Ad­kins Ar­bore­tum in Ridgely. • Air­ports The com­mon air­port is a re­source for en­ter­tain­ment and learn­ing, a fact passed on to my chil­dren and I by my own Aunt Joanne, my sons’ great (or grand, if you will) aunt. It’s cheap, fun and a great ad­ven­ture! There are lo­cal air­ports right on our Shore that are ideal for ob­serv­ing air­planes. Cam­bridge, Eas­ton and Kent Is­land come to mind im­me­di­ately. Pack snacks, set up camp and en­joy watch­ing the planes land and take off. See if em­ploy­ees will let you see the planes up close; learn about all the things that help them fly.

Some things are univer­sal, and air­planes con­tinue to be a source of amaze­ment and awe to chil­dren ev­ery­where and from ev­ery era … and it’s pretty ex­cit­ing for us grown-ups, too! • Gar­den­ing Gar­den­ing is a tool unto it­self that has been uti­lized many a time by my own par- ents on days or va­ca­tions when they have had their own grand­chil­dren over for vis­its. It’s re­lax­ing, and teaches your grand­kids about the cy­cles of life, growth, de­cay, re­birth, self-re­liant nour­ish­ment and the land.

Who bet­ter to teach them these things but you, when you have ex­pe­ri­enced all those things on a macroscale in your life­time, and can blend your real life experiences into the gar­den­ing ex­pe­ri­ence? Your grand­kids can learn about re­spon­si­bil­ity the old-fash­ioned way and reap the re­wards of pride in ac­com­plish­ment when they see their work on the din­ner ta­ble. A cheaper, eas­ier ver­sion of this is the pick­y­our-own places we have in such abun­dance here on the Shore. To find a pick-yourown farm near you, check out this web­site: pick­y­

You are in a unique po­si­tion with your grand­chil­dren, if you are a grand­par­ent liv­ing with your grand­chil­dren. You are lucky enough to not be lim­ited to just a visit here or there in which to im­part your wis­dom and life’s knowl­edge, but to be able to be present ev­ery day in a close and per­sonal way.

Par­ent­ing is a whole new ball game in some ways, with a whole dif­fer­ent set of rules in this mod­ern day and age, but the ba­sic needs of chil­dren and their care­givers are time­less and do not change. Whether you are still work­ing or re­tired, these ideas can help ac­com­mo­date your per­sonal en­ergy re­serve as well as give you the chance to share your life’s wis­dom with your pre­cious grand­chil­dren.

“What wis­dom?” you may ask.

The wis­dom of where you’ve been, what you’ve done, why you’ve done it all, and what you wish you had or had not done. Kids are in­sa­tiably cu­ri­ous and are sponges just wait­ing for you to share your­self with them. I hope these ac­tiv­i­ties are a cat­a­lyst for just that very thing.

Michelle Danelle Sebly is a free­lance writer liv­ing in Ridgely. She ma­jors in com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege in Wye Mills while work­ing there as an edi­tor’s as­sis­tant in the Divi­sion for In­sti­tu­tional Ad­vance­ment. She con­sid­ers her­self a half­way use­ful wealth of in­for­ma­tion on kids, hav­ing chil­dren rang­ing in age from 5 to 29, and has been par­ent­ing since 1987.


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