You’ve probably heard those words or maybe thought those words? About yourself or others. Expressed in different tones of voice, possibly with very different underlying emotions. Grandparents month and their day on 26 July were about more than simply those two generations. Here there is a very important dynamic at play within a family setting. I ask any reader to take a moment to remember your own grandparents and what they would have had to say about life today.
So what does it really mean to be a granny in today’s society? Let’s look at it this way:
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There is the brag-book granny, proud and happy. “My little darlings are so cute and so clever. Only 16 months old and already talking, singing and just watching and copying his older siblings.” Many grannies – and granddads too, – maybe even most or all of us, are like that in the beginning. They are truly amazing tiny creations.
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There is another proud and show-off granny. “My darlings have done such great things. Jason is a nuclear physicist and Marcia lectures in law, and they never forget my birthday. I remember that both my own kids were brilliant students too.”
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There is the older mother/mother-in-law, waiting, dying for a baby, to become a granny at last. Children married or not. “Just give me a grandchild to love.” She prays and hints and nags when she can.
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There is the concerned granny. “I genuinely do see these three kids as a real blessing, although I worry about parental neglect. And what will they do if I am not there any more?
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There is the supportive granny. “I get amazing joy and satisfaction from being able to help with whatever they need, fetching and carrying. I don’t want them to miss out on anything. and this also gives me a chance to give them a bit of religion, which I don’t think their parents do very much. ”
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There is the disappointed caring granny. “I wish that they would come and stay with me some time but either they don’t seem to want to or to need me, or maybe their parents, especially my daughter-in-law, don’t trust me.” “Except when they do have a need for a loan.“
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There is the granny, the mother of the teenage mother. “This baby shouldn’t be my responsibility. I’m still young enough to have my own life. She is his mother and needs to do a lot more to take care of him.” Teenage mother thinks, “I’m jolly pleased I can leave this child with his granny, so I can get on with my life, go back to school and later on get a job.”
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There is the used/exploited granny, “I wish I wasn’t being used like this. I’m tired of looked after all these brats. They’re so ungrateful, they take my pension money and just expect me to provide for them. I thought I would be able to sit down and rest in my old age.”
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There’s the universal granny. “Although I’m old now, I’m happy I have the energy and can still do what I can to look after all these children. Over the years I’ve cared for my six children, but two of them died of AIDS and left me with four of theirs. Then other grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, my nieces and nephews and their kids too felt happy to come to me and my neighbours are also leaving their kids with me. I just love kids. Can’t help it. It is a financial burden but their parents do give me money as long as I give the love and care. I do thank God often that I have this gift.” This granny is probably very much a St Martha person whose feastday is celebrated on 29 July
OH, TO BE A GRANNY! There is the hopeful granny. “My children are spread around the globe now and I don’t often see or hear from my grandchildren but I know they are good kids and I’m hopeful that these young clever ones will be able to put things right in our crazy mixed-up world.”
SOME FACTS OF LIFE. Grandparenting is an often unrecognised but unique relationship. We do celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Women’s Day, Youth Day, Marriage Day and more. There is a month for the elderly, a child protection week, days for disability etc. But what about grandparents? There is a special dimension; a grandparent is not just an older person. The relationship and changes over time of young and old, the role they can or do play as part of a family unit are important. For a resource booklet about grandparenting including prayers and blessings go to https://www.marfam.org.za/?s=grandparents+resource+booklet+
However many elderly look after other people’s grandchildren and grandchildren can adopt another elderly person as Pope Francis has just been promoting in his #sendahug campaign.
Many grandparents, although far more women than men, are widowed and adapting to that. Many are single parents. Many too are in skip-generation families and plenty of children grow up without grandparents, or don’t see or know them, or with more than the two sets in the case of divorce and remarriage. Ethnic factors also play a role as different cultures see these relationships differently. Many grandparents who are also carers are only partially responsible as they have no real authority.
It is a reality that becoming a grandparent is not their choice. Except maybe in the very unusual case where a mother becomes a surrogate mother for her own child. Grandparents are “done to” in a sense, but it is one of the most important and powerful of human relationships because it is a close biological link. For many of us it is a joy, a gift and a blessing. For others it is a burden and a cross. And through the years it can be all of those. We give what we can and undoubtedly there are times when all we can do is place them in God’s hands while what we offer is our prayers.
For a MOVEMENT OF PRAYER OF GRANDPARENTS FOR THEIR GRANDCHILDREN go to https://www.marfam.org.za/1150074-2/
Death and grieving are very real at this time for many of us in our families. STATIONS OF THE CROSS FOR THE BEREAVED is a booklet to support us through this time. Order from MARFAM. Email [email protected] or call +27 82 5521275. To commemorate your loved ones JOIN THE DAISY CHAIN.