I’ve had reason recently to think a lot about extended family and its importance in a child’s life. My parents relocated from their childhood haunts before I was born, so when I grew up, I was growing up away from extended family—far from aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas. Although there were trips to see them periodically, and letters back and forth, particularly between my grandmas and me, the closeness in the relationships was limited by the distances between us.
Even with that limitation, the letters and contacts I had with my grandparents, particularly my Grandmas, were always delightful, and when I look at the relationship our daughter has with her Grandma and Papa, who are close by, I am in awe. Even the relationship she has with her Grandpa Arduengo, who is many miles away, is amazing, thanks in part to technology that brings them closer. What is it about Grandparents, particularly Grandmas, that they are the very embodiment of unconditional love? Why, when my daughter was two and just beginning to talk, was the sentence “Let’s go to Grandma’s” greeted by squeals of delight and “Oh good, hugs!”
I know there are probably exceptions to my observations about grandparents, but those exceptions merely prove the rule. Grandparents, particularly Grandmas, know how to love their grandchildren without condition. And, their grandchildren love them back without reserve.
They are always ready with a hug and a smile. Grandmas sense when Mom needs a nap and a child needs a distraction. They are ready with a willing ear and a soft shoulder that come free of advice and judgment, unless that advice is sought; even then “you should” is rarely part of the conversation.
What is it about grandparents that they can lose themselves in hours of tea party or puppet play? Spend all kinds of time creating cardboard houses in the basement and not mind that those cardboard houses stay in the middle of the floor for months on end? How do Grandmas get grandchildren to willingly try new foods—as if taste testing is an adventure not an attempt to poison them?
I attended a forum on creativity this year, and one of the neurologists speaking noted that some work has been done looking at creativity in older people. Older entrepreneurs go about building businesses in very different ways than traditionally aged business leaders. There is some thought, but little real evidence to support the thought, that some of the creativity older business leaders show is due to some of the biology of aging—“thinning” of areas prefrontal cortex of the brain and therefore loss of some of the inhibitory functions that tend to counter creativity—combined with a lifetime of experience on which that “freed” creativity can draw.
The same may be apply to the interactions of grandparents with grandchildren—they are more creative with the grandchildren because they can be (less inhibited brains?) and because they have all of the experience of having raised children on which to base their creative grand parenting solutions and play.
The same may be true of the unconditional love grand parents have learned to show as well. They have lived life. They have loved, lost, hurt, and jumped for joy. They know how to hold someone when a person hurts, how to listen when a person talks. Because of their life experiences, they recognize in the moment a child who needs a hug or a cookie or a nap or who just needs to know she is loved and has a place to go, and grandparents are not inhibited from doing what needs to be done—opening their arms wide and providing that place.
My daughter is so blessed to have the grandparents she has. For that matter, so am I.
© 2013 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.