By LENNOX FARRELL
As one pallywally put it, “Boy, if I only knew how sweet gran’ children was, I woulda start wid dem.”
I heartily concur that grand-parenting beats everything else. Hands down! And as everyone knows, while being a parent can last for years – except in instances of some “adult children” with entitlement issues – being a grandparent can last for decades. In one word, being a grandparent is grand, and going beyond that, “grand” becomes “great”.
O.K., about parenting, I know it has its specialties. Once I was there, times many. I know the beat, especially the beat at the midnight hour. Getting up again, midnight to early morning, to again change pampers that are wet…some even a little solid, squishy, leaky. And all you need to get in response from “baby, baby” is a sweet little smile. Babies know early how to terrorize you. Now, we men know that mothers are excellent parents, in fact, they’re beyond the best. O.K.? But they know, too – and here I’m being very objective – that it is we, men, who usually let them sleep soundly while we get up to walk and rock the little one back and forth, back and forth, back and forth to sleep. We men are good at that. In fact, we’re the best. And no arguing here either. Case closed.
But when it comes to grand-parenting, who else in the life of a child is as good at “spoiling” them with fun times, going for walks, and when they do anything wrong? For the umpteenth time, and discipline is overdue? It’s grampie or grannie who morphs into that angel of mercy. Pleading their case, mightily. No arguing here either. Case closed. Furthermore, why are grandparents so grand? For one thing, we’ve lived longer, learned more, are wiser – O.K.? Sometimes a tad slower – and so patient. Also, isn’t it grandparents who more readily teach the young ones about the great life skills, like how to boil cornmeal dumplings in a yellow split-peas soup; served with coconut bake and boneless codfish braised in olive oil with tomatoes, onions, and ketchup? And isn’t being a grandparent an opportunity to pay, or assist in paying for music lessons, joining a choir, or forming a grandparent’s health club?
And to be more specific, who best teaches the little – and not-so-little – ones how to use origami skills to make a zoo of creatures: frogs, spiders, cranes, butterflies, giraffes, whales and everything else origami, like planes? Teaching children and others these skills brings many benefits. One is that children play less video games. By the way, the more they play these, the less they understand being disciplined. Fact, scientifically proven. And doesn’t it make more sense showing them what to do, instead of telling them what not to do? And have you ever watched someone creating origami objects from plain sheets of paper? For you to learn how-to, Google “origami instructions” and say hello to a world of YouTube possibilities; of videos – some clearer than others – with step-by-step info on how to shape creatures. And all for free.
If you then want to use ready-made squares of origami paper and books with written instructions, then go to a craft store, or call around. And practice, practice, practice. Then show others. “Wow” them.
Avoid newsprint. These tear too easily. From experience, use those shiny sheets used for ads. These make solid creations. Then, form an origami club wherever you gather with like-minded souls. And if in a setting with other children, teach them, too, how to make the many, many objects and creatures possible. Get them hooked on origami goodness.
Among the other benefits gained learning and teaching “goodness”, is that both you and they can develop better “hand to eye to brain” co-ordination, assisting everyone to recall better. And here is also giving the young ones reasons, other than those of ill-behaviour, to “show off” in class; showing other students things useful and unique. Also, does learning and teaching skills like these help stave off inconveniences like dementia and Alzheimer’s? For sure, you’ll at least be watching fewer TV shows. And munching less munchies.
On a more serious note, are there needs to be met, and other ways to play better roles in the lives of your grandchildren? Yes! In today’s social order, there are such realities as long-distance grand-parenting, full-time grand-parenting, step-grand-parenting, etc.? In the latter, “blended families” are those in which two or more homes are joined or blended together. These can occur through separations or divorce, death of a spouse, etc. So, in addition to step-children having a step-parent, they might also have step-grandparents, etc.
The challenges here are apparently greater, the older the children being blended, and the more diverse their cultural, racial, class, religious and other backgrounds. You almost think it unfair for any child to experience such circumstances. However, like other current forms of parenting, the type of challenge always reflects the degree of commitment of those involved to ensuring good times or horrors.
Be they families blended or not, as a grandparent, avoid flouting the rules – beneficial – as set down by the parent(s). Be prudent. Few actions so frustrate and alienate a budding parent, as your “pompasetting” on a child’s upbringing…and worse, in the child’s presence. Sometimes a comment is not so much negative, as it is needlessly questioning the parent’s judgment. Yes, we grandparents know everything. But didn’t we also have to learn, and learned? Didn’t we appreciate advice that was complementary and encouraging? We are wise because we remember that wisdom is also knowing when to keep your mouth shut, and smiling.
Finally, there is more, much more on grand-parenting. For one, you are the family historian. Also, in Canada, when families break up, are there any legal rights for visiting your grandchildren after their parents’ separation or divorce? And what are among the worst of things done to grandchildren? One is trying to “buy their affection”. Another is showing preference for one child over another. In a society of skin-colour fetishism, one can subtly and unthinkingly create circumstances which can be permanently destructive to a child’s personal self-regard, and its future relationships.
As grandparents, the lives and experiences of grandchildren – ours and others – will be greatly enhanced or reduced by their memories of our presence. And the best thing we can do for them is to remember, and either follow or avoid the example of a grandparent we once had who was wise, or otherwise.