This year, National Grandparents Day falls on Sept. 11. It is a good time to reflect on those moments and people that help define us. It’s a time to remember the people who helped shape us and, in turn, helped shape generations to come. Our heroes. Much of the time we don’t need to look too far. Those heroes are a vital part of our everyday life; they are our grandparents.
Our grandparents are our soft place to land and our safe haven in a busy and often overwhelming world. As our much-beloved television grandpa Mr. Rogers used to say, “Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.”
For me, my Nanny was my hero, and she embodied all I knew about love. As a small child growing up in a children’s home, love was not a frequent visitor. Neither were such luxuries as security and the warming glow of contentment. I was only truly home when safely nestled in the welcoming arms of my Nanny. For a couple of years before I was put into care, I lived with her. I found out much later that she fought the county to get custody but was told in her 50s she was too old. However, for a brief period of time, I had security and the stability of a loving home with its daily rituals.
One of those rituals was my comforting hot water bottle. That seemingly insignificant object represented for me all that love implies. After a warm bedtime beverage of Horlicks, I was whisked way to bed. I could hardly contain my excitement as my Nanny pulled back the covers. In the middle of the bed, just like a patient puppy, lay my hot water bottle.
My Nanny and hot water bottle embodied similar qualities. Nothing could sooth the pain in my body and soul in quite the way they did. Still today, that smell of warm rubber has a calming effect. Instantly, I’m transported to a place of warmth and safety. This hot water bottle love was passed down to my girls, and when my youngest daughter was in labor with my grandson, it was the warmth and the security of the water bottle she requested.
Grandparents today continue to provide that much-needed security. With families needing increased support, many grandparents are filling the gaps in any way they can. Those rituals are often now the glue that holds the family together. Today, more than any other time in history, there are more grandparents. They are also taking on a greater variety of roles. In addition, they have a wider age range. As I interact with families from all cultural and economic backgrounds, I’ve met grandparents who range in age from 32 to 105. Far from being old or frail, today’s grandparents are fitter and more involved than ever before. Like my beloved Nanny, a growing number of children live part time or even full time with grandparents.
Today’s grandparents have also embraced the technology that’s available. Many who live a distance away often remain connected and involved across time zones using Skype or FaceTime. Virtual relationships can provide that one-to-one connection that is not always possible from a distance. Not content with just hearing their grandchildren’s voices they now can steal a virtual kiss or witness a toddler’s real-time temper tantrum. Family pictures are no longer hidden in a wallet to be shared among close friends and relatives. This tech-wise generation of grandparents are checking Facebook for the latest family pics and sharing them all over the world.
The name “helicopter grandparents” perfectly describes their involvement in all aspects of grandparenting. These are the Boomers, and they do everything with gusto! They are amazingly adaptable, incredibly savvy and have more disposable income than ever before. No matter how grandparents today are involved, the key is that they are more connected than ever. Grandparents are aware of how important it is to savor the now and be there for the little day-to-day moments that become those treasured rituals and memories. Love in a hot water bottle.
Sharon Cole is a licensed speech-language pathologist and proud grandmother. Her goal is to enhance children’s lives through love, laughter and language. Sharon can be contacted at [email protected] or British Nanny Facebook page for any questions about the British Nanny column or speech and language concerns.