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Celebrate the Grandparents This Weekend

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

This weekend is grandparent’s day and I just get a smile on my face when I think of the many memories I have of my own grandparents, and most especially my favorite grandmother, “Gaga”. I was blessed with Gaga until her death at 104 years of age, and she was “with it” until the day she died.

Having a grandparent in a child’s life is a special relationship. I see that first hand when new parents bring in their infant for the newborn pediatric exam, and they are often accompanied by a proud grandparent. The grandparents tell me over and over again that this part of parenting is even better than when they were parents, in other words grandparents have reached the pinnacle. They sit in my office holding that precious baby, and they just beam. They don’t look tired, anxious or stressed, as those emotions have now shifted a generation. Grandparents just look happy! They describe it as having all of the perks of parenting without the day-to-day worries. They are happy to help, and love being involved, but at the end of the day, they are not raising that baby. “Been there, done that”.

The relationship between a grandparent and a child is also different. Somehow a child just senses this difference and their connection and love for a grandparent is obvious. Grandparents usually are “more fun”, may not be as strict and always have gifts (like a life saver or gum). Grandparents are ready to just sit down and talk or play, as they don’t have the other distractions like parents. They are typically good listeners. They say “yes” more often.

But statistics show that more and more grandparents are becoming caregivers of their grandchildren. A recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau states that between six and eight percent of children in the United States are being raised by their grandparents. Many other grandparents are providing childcare on a regular basis while young parents are working. Other grandparents are called into action to drive carpools after school, assist in homework, and fix the family dinner before dual career couples arrive home to take over. The saying, “it takes a village” has never been more true and grandparents are a lifeline for many. It is a blessing for a family to be able to rely on grandparents for assistance, while it is also a gift that the grandchild will always remember. Who better to pick you up from school, or take you to ballet, than you grandparent? I am seeing more and more grandparents bringing their grandchildren to the pediatrician to help out when a child is sick. Grandparents also know how to treat fevers and make chicken noodle soup, these are skills that are never forgotten. They are typically good at calming fears and reassuring parents, as they have past parenting experiences to draw upon and know when to really worry.

Parenting can be hard, but the rewards are great. Grandparenting seems to be the bonus for putting in all of those years of hard work. I can’t wait.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again soon.

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