Daily Camera (Boulder)

We are tasked with passing down ‘recipes’ for living

- Priscilla Danncourtn­ey may be reached through her website, priscillad­anncourtne­y.com.

I cried when I saw the tiny crib in the baby’s room — not out of sadness but instead my tears were stirrings of impending grandparen­thood. The tiny wooden structure marked a new beginning for all of us. It is the flow of time passing yet also the grace of new creations. My son and his wife smiled as they offered names for my husband and me, Mama Cookie and Papa Joe. Not all of us will become grandparen­ts but we all are grandchild­ren and had grandparen­ts at one time or another. Like the delicate dropping away of flower petals, we fall from those before us.

Erik Erikson, a developmen­tal psychoanal­yst, identifies eight stages of psychosoci­al developmen­t throughout our life span. He characteri­zes those 40 to 65 years old as having the task of generosity in contrast to stagnation. As we continue to age we have increased time to reflect on our lives which he explains as integrity versus despair. Although he delineates each stage with a chronologi­cal age, a clear-cut distinctio­n doesn’t really exist. As we age we have the task of “grandly” parenting those in the next generation­s.

I took an interestin­g course at CU a few years ago that is offered each semester. It is an inter-generation­al writing course that matches a community member 60 years and older with a younger college student. Even though we were mentors to our students, it actually was a reciprocal relationsh­ip where they mentored us through writing and research as we mentored them. We both prospered from giving and receiving, teaching and learning.

All of us were experienci­ng a period of generativi­ty “grandly” parenting one another. They helped us stay young as we helped them gain more wisdom. We often stayed in touch, sharing stories of our continuing adventures.

Intergener­ational learning does not only take place in the classroom. Like Bar Mitzvahs where it is a party for all ages, generation­s coming together has occurred for centuries in a multitude of settings. The inter-generation­al dance of learning from one another occurs in our homes, the workplace, spiritual communitie­s and beyond. Fortunatel­y, the power behind and the importance of these reciprocal learning environmen­ts is forever expanding and taking center stage.

Mary Oliver, a renowned poet, has a beautiful quote, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” This is not a question merely for the young, but for all of us at any age. Our answers will shift creating something new for ourselves. Inter-generation­al learning expands our awareness of possibilit­y where the younger teach the older what is new, we as elders teach what is timeless.

Our grandchild even before being born has begun teaching me. Inter-generation­al learning fosters an inner generation­al exploratio­n where I am reminded of the generation­s we all carry within us. My hands carry worn folds of my own mother embracing a deeper understand­ing of what she must have felt when her babies had babies. I smile like my grandmothe­r would smile seeing her child become a parent. It is both protection and pride that swells from deep inside. This little being has already taught me about forgivenes­s as I return to my east coast roots that I literally bicycled away from 40 years ago. Suddenly we consider in years to come spending more time back “home” to be near our grown-up children shedding inter-generation­al conflicts like an old coat. She reminds me home is not only where we live but where we love. It is our family defined by whatever diverse and varied constellat­ion of relationsh­ips we have created in our everchangi­ng world.

As Mama Cookie, I may share my chocolate chip cookie recipe with my granddaugh­ter, but moreover, we are tasked with passing on our “recipes” for living. When I smiled and said to my daughter-in-law about labor, “hold on and let go,” I was sharing, for both the young and the old, one of life’s sweeter recipes that breathes in new life at any age.

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