“Grandma, do you know what we haven’t done for a long time?” Noelia pulls me toward her as she speaks. The long time refers to at least half a day. I wrap my arms around my six year old GRANDdaughter, and she squeezes tight and then flashes her adorable smile. She’ll ask for a hug at least four or five more times during the day.
Nathanael probably won’t ask. At eight, he is too old to voice the need in words, but he may pull me over to him, and when he does he won’t let me go. And frankly, I don’t really want to let him go either, not now, not five years down the road.
Our GRANDchildren are growing up in a totally different world from the one we were raised in, and the experts are telling us that their brains are changing to match their world. Texting and tweeting, Face Book and chat rooms, these are the main socializing tools our grandchildren will be familiar with. They will need less of the affection part of the brain in their new environment.
Maybe that should thrill me. They are, after all, going to have the world at their fingertips. What an awesome privilege! They’ll have all that knowledge at the click of a mouse; they’ll have friends by the hundreds on a social network instead of just the one or two next door like I had when I was a kid.
But it doesn’t thrill me. To be honest, it scares me. I love my GRANDkids. I want them to feel more than the touch of a key pad; I want them to know a hug is more than just a cute little animated picture on a computer screen; I want them to feel the warmth of loving arms around them; I want them to have a clear understanding of what affection is all about.
Can a GRANDparent make a difference in the brain structure of their GRANDchild? I believe they can. If we start when they are all innocence and a sponge for love and be there for them, be the lap they can climb on, the best friend they can touch and hug, the understanding ear that listens, we stand a much better chance of keeping their affection as they grow into texters and tweeters. And that affection may keep the vital part of their brain, the socializing part, from shrinking away.
If we can keep a strong personal bond with them through their teen years, until they are ready to find their life’s mate, maybe they will be more prepared to relate to that one special person with the affection they will need for a good relationship.
Some day, when my grown, good-looking GRANDchild leans over, gives me a great big hug and says “Hey, Grandma, I want you to meet someone special.” I hope I will be able to look the adoring future mate in the eyes and say, “you’ve found yourself someone who really knows how to love!”