A few days ago I was interviewed by Bobbi Conner, host of the radio show “The Parent’s Journal,” which is carried by about 200 stations around the U.S., as well as the Armed Services Network. (I’ll post here when I find out when it will be aired.) Bobbi asked some really good questions – including a couple that focus on the value of grandparents spending time with grandkids, and some of the positive aspects of this for the child, the grandparent, and the parent.
As I was thinking about this, I remembered a wonderful interview I was once privileged to have with the amazing anthropologist Margaret Mead. I had been asking her about issues relating to child care. She told me, “The worst thing is just having the mother boxed up with the baby 24 hours a day, which nobody ever meant to have happen in the whole history of the human race. Babies are most likely to develop into well-adjusted human beings when they are cared for by many warm, friendly people – as long as most of these loved people remain in the infants’ lives.”
And who fills this bill the best? The grandmother, of course. We’re the next best thing to a parent. As another stable relationship in child’s life, we’re there. We can give parents a break, and they can relax knowing we'll take loving care of their offspring. And in some ways we’re even better than a parent – well, at least, different. Our role is different -- for one thing we don't have the responsibility of socializing the children so we are free of those pressures. Also, at this time in our lives we usually have more time than a busy parent does, more patience, and more of an understanding that so many of the things we worried about never materialize, so we can be more relaxed than the parents can be -- and than we were as parents.
Then too, sometimes a child needs to talk to someone who’s not a parent but who they know is just as concerned with their happiness and well-being as a parent is – here’s where grandparents come in, to offer a different perspective from the one they can get from their parents, friends, or siblings. We’ve been around the block a few times, and we can draw on a wealth of experiences.
Plus, we’re one more person in their lives they can have fun with.