Grandparents’ Day and the Grandmother Effect

P1140898croppedLast Sunday, for the 35th time since it was instituted, Grandparents’ Day was observed in the United States, honoring 65 million grandparents. In addition to loving their grandkids, grandparents are often responsible for providing childcare and support. A recent survey found that a grandparent regularly cares for nearly one-third of the children under age 5 who have working mothers. And 3 million grandparents are primarily in charge of raising their grandchildren.

For me, love is the main commodity I provide to my grandkids and I get it back in multiples. We live far away from our three young grandsons and when we’re with them–on Grandparents’ Day or any day of the year—we eagerly participate in what they’re doing. Since they’re active boys, this usually means playing with them–catch, miniature golf, or bowling–and cheering at one of their many team games, usually basketball or soccer. Being able to share in their lives, even for a short time, is the best gift they can give us.

Some friends, with two young granddaughters, enjoy quite different activities with them. Here’s Granny’s description: “We had a wonderful Grandparents Day with our girls. Our older granddaughter made us a “proper tea!” I wore a flower hat and lots of pearls to her tea party! She made egg muffin sandwiches. They looked pretty neat – I think her mommy might have assisted! And yummy red velvet cupcakes. They’re her favorite. I don’t like them so she got to have mine too. I’m pretty sure she knows I like vanilla. All the while, her baby sister just laughed – she does that a lot!”

Whether your grandkids are boys or girls, living nearby or far away, celebrating holidays and rituals together can help build rich, lasting and meaningful connections. Everyone benefits – grandchildren have another set of loving arms, parents get some free time and grandparents are energized and relish being included.

Researchers have uncovered historical reasons to honor and applaud grandmothers particularly. Have your heard of the Grandmother Hypothesis? Social scientists have noted that cultures in which grandmothers help care for and feed their grandchildren have lower infant mortality and have evolved longer average lifespans. In addition, the aid of grandmothers frees up younger women to have more children sooner, increasing the fertility rate.

So, even though Grandparents’ Day is officially over, value the relationship you have built with your grandkids. You’ll all be grateful for the time you spent together.

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