It's National Grandparents’ Day this Sunday and we’re in a reflective mood about how our parents’ parents teach us so many valuable life lessons.
It’s been almost a year since my nan died and I think of her often. A remarkable woman and a wonderful role model, she taught me so many valuable life lessons that I took with me from childhood to adulthood. She was such an important figure in my sister’s and my life as we were growing up – so much so, that I went on to name my daughter after her. So, with National Grandparents Day happening this Sunday, I wanted to give a shoutout to all the wonderful grandparents out there – past and present, in person and in spirit – and show just how important they are.
Why grandparents are so important
Grandparents, if you’re lucky enough to have a relationship with them, teach us so much. Respect, love, appreciation, family history, kindness, patience… the list goes on. My nan instilled in me – among other things – a love for baking, Frank Sinatra, old Hollywood musicals, sewing and black and white movies.
On a deeper level, she taught me how to stand up for myself and for what I believed in, to not to let anyone take me for a fool and to always be loyal to loved ones. She showed me that sometimes we all have to do things we don’t want to, because sometimes those very things are important to the people we hold dear. She showed me the good qualities of being able to let loose, be silly and being able to laugh at myself – something I have carried with me all through my life and now show my own children. And she taught me that, often, when you’re stuck in an endless loop of deliberation, that the mantra “If in doubt, leave it out” usually rings true.
The greatness of grandparents
And she was so much fun. My sister and I would spend huge chunks of our school holidays at her house and we’d love every minute. She knew how to make toast just the way us two foodies-in-the-making liked it: lightly coloured, butter spread right up to the edges and finished off with the perfect amount of Marmite. She’d make clothes from scratch for our Barbie dolls, and she’d knit our teddies blankets because duh, it was winter and they’d be cold otherwise. She whole-heartedly encouraged me to empty her kitchen cupboards of all the tins and packets and play make-believe with her pots and pans. She’d play nurses with us, help us create tents using old sheets draped over the sofas, and play the piano while singing “When I’m Sixty-Four”.
I could go on, but no amount of words would do her justice. What I hope is clear is how important grandparents are in shaping us, guiding us and supporting us as we grow up. Grandparents aren’t about discipline and the everyday stresses of parenting. They’re all about unconditional love – and lots of fun. And it’s not just the kids who benefit from a relationship with grandparents. For parents, they offer support, advice, a link to tradition… and, let’s be honest, babysitting or childcare duties!
Memories in the making
Despite the guilt I feel for being halfway around the world from my family (one of the worst parts of expat life!), I try my darndest to keep up regular video calls with my mum so my little ones will see her lots, albeit not in the flesh. And my husband does the same with his folks.
When you have kids of your own, you (hopefully) learn that both sets of parents did okay raising the pair of you. Sure, their advice might be a little outdated. Yes, their memories of the terrible toddler years are verrrrrry dusty (“Our kids always did as they were told!” Really? Really?). And, while they might drive you nuts at times, they’re not trying to take over – they just want to get involved. So let them. Think of all those lovely memories in the making your kids are forming.
Happy Grandparents Day.
This article was first published in November 2019