Significant Grandparents?


An interesting statistic on a morning TV show triggered my thinking. I won’t be held accountable for its validity but the quote was, “Only 14% of American families play a significant role in the upbringing of their grandchildren.”

The show went on to feature a Chinese couple, by contrast, who lived with the father’s parents in a two-bedroom apartment.  They all seemed happy with the arrangement as the parents went to work and the grandparents provided childcare. Obviously, these grandparents played a significant role in their grandchildren’s lives. 

So that led me to the question of what makes a “significant” role? Except for a brief period when we saw three of them about every month or six weeks, our first eight grandchildren lived far enough away that we felt fortunate when we saw them twice in one year. Now for almost three years, the youngest two have lived fifteen minutes away – and that’s when there’s traffic. Obviously, a significant role in their lives has become easier whether Owen is “helping” his grandfather with his lawn mower or Benjamin is discovering his grandfather’s piano skills. 

Helping Grandpa 1.jpg

So that left me wondering how significant we had been with those occasional visits with the “big” grandchildren. Even as I wondered, the oldest grandson came home for a visit from Hawaii and wanted to come over for a lesson in how to make my biscuits. He sat at the counter and took careful notes as I demonstrated. A couple of weeks later, he sent pictures of his first effort. I must admit they looked better than my firsts. Before I finished relishing his success, I got a text message from the co-oldest (a set of twin girls) granddaughter saying she was cooking Easter dinner for friends and would like my biscuit recipe. Now you may say that “biscuits” and “significant” are not synonyms, but I’m going to add that the “bigs” also occasionally like one of my blogs or a post to Facebook, and I am going to label those as significant.

I will say that fifteen minutes away with the possibility of multiple eye-sightings a week or an unexpected drop-in visit beats the planned trips and long flights to get to where the grands live, but I’m claiming “significant” for all. And for the record, neither any of the parents nor the grandparents want to go so far as to live together in a two-bedroom apartment. That is much too significant.