Grandparents Day: What? When?


by Joy Loverde

If you’re like most families, this year’s Grandparents Day (Sept 12, 2010) probably came and went without much fanfare. At least that’s what happened to me. I did not get one call from any of my six grandchildren. And I’ll bet any amount of money that none of them had a clue that Grandparents Day even existed.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Who knew? I was unaware. And certainly no one informed my grandchildren about this special day -- not their teachers, not their parents. Nobody. In fact, I would wager a bet with anyone that my grandchildren’s teachers and parents were also in the dark and did not realize that September 12th was Grandparents Day.

The impetus for a National Grandparents Day originated with Marian McQuade, a housewife in Fayette County, West Virginia. Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. Her dream was to persuade grandchildren to tap into the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. Here’s the website about Grandparents Day:

So, what’s my point? For starters, the last thing I’m looking for is greeting cards from grandchildren filled with meaningless sentiments written by talented poets who are paid to compose little ditties to lift my spirits. The cards eventually go by the wayside and meet their fate in a forgotten drawer. There’s a deeper family issue brewing here and it has to do with a relationship pattern that I have witnessed over and over again in my family between younger and older family members.

Once I left home as a young adult, Mom and Dad NEVER picked up the phone to call and say hello. Same held true for my grandparents, Godparents, aunts, and uncles. The unwritten family rule is this: The older family member never has to reach out to stay in touch with younger family members. And to make things worse, when younger family members eventually pick up the phone and call home they are reprimanded and reminded of their shortcomings of not calling often enough.

To this day Mom complains a lot about why some younger members of our family don’t call her more often. And I respond by saying she can call them and that’s when I hear, “On no I won’t. THEY are supposed to call me!” What???

For years I bought into this rule and believed that I am the one who must make the effort to stay related to my elders, and now I realize how this rule has kept our family out of balance. Grandparents Day reminded me on how we continue to teach the younger family members that the onus is on them to stay related. Looking back, I would have given anything for a friendly phone call from a grandparent when I was growing up. Anything.

Let’s keep Grandparents Day just as it is, a day to celebrate the wonderful people they are, and let’s flower them with the love and attention they deserve. And let’s also work on the idea of grandparents doing all they can to stay related to the younger family members in their lives. I love the idea of Grandparents Day – don’t get me wrong. But I say let’s keep in mind that relating is a two-way street.


1 Response

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  2. Respectfully, I couldn't disagree more with the notion that the burden of connecting to our past lies in our past. Beyond any stories of parents or grandparents who never initiated a call or conversation, the reality is that adult children are busier than ever, our lives so over scheduled, that it is a real challenge to make time for senior parents. And this is the model we are showing their grandchildren. Senior family members inherently know the family story - they know it's beginnings, they know the drafts that almost were but perhaps got mislaid or rewritten in a new moment of passion. They know the middle - the ups and downs, the dramas, the dull, sleepy passages. And they are living the future. But what do their grandchildren know other than the occasional stories they find themselves sitting through in order to get dessert? We live in an imbalanced culture that values youth above all, that elevates the importance of what children want and have to say as at the very least equal to, if not greater than, that of their elders. This is new in civilized cultures. Human being understood the value to society elders offer, as both guides and support. We used myths and cultural rituals to tell the story of what it is to be human. By teaching our children to value seniors in society, and show respect by reaching out to them first, we teach them their own place in the world - what it is now, but what it can become to those enriched by family stories and traditions. As a senior lifestyle consultant, I work with so many seniors who live in their own homes but each with a unique family circumstance, and the healthy seniors that receive regular contact from family member - particularly grandchildren - show greater cognitive ability and emotional well-being. Grandparents have so much more to offer than a phone call. Let's teach our children (and ourselves) to do at least that much.
  3. [...] Grandparents Day: What? When? | Elder Care ABC [...]

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