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: pickyourown.org/MDeast.htm.
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.