Have you Found the Portal to your Grandchild’s World?
BY JERRY WITKOVSKY
A Grandchild’s world is school, friendships (boys and girls) parents (my daughter and son-in-law), the other grandparents, siblings, dreams, passions, technology, music and the next “first” on the horizon. Those firsts are easy to celebrate when they are young: the first step, the first lost tooth, first hobbies. As they grow up they are sometimes more reticent to share how they feel about their firsts…things like puberty, starting high school, becoming young adults.
As they age and discover new things, we too, the grandparents, may find ourselves in a world that feels foreign.
Kids today can have a conversation with someone on the other side of the globe in real time.
I grew up during the depression (I’ll be 90 in March). That new-fangled invention, the telephone, may have revolutionized communication in my day, but it was still expensive, so not everyone could afford one. A printed newspaper, for 5 cents, was the quickest and best way to get the news. We wrote letters and waited for weeks to hear from friends or family.
We didn’t have a television at home. On Sunday nights we would sit around the radio and listen to shows like The Jack Benny Show or Burns and Allen. That was the highlight of our Sunday.
I imagine my world must seem as foreign to my grandchildren as their world sometimes does to me.
Kids today can have a conversation with someone on the other side of the globe in real time. They can watch full movies on demand on a personal device they carry in their hand. While some look at these differences and lament about the “good old days,” I see them as a wonderful playground to explore and travel through time together.
Stories are the Bridge
“The shortest distance between two people is a story.” – Patti Digh
One way to share these intergenerational experiences is through stories. Stories can be about your own life experience, to give your grandchildren a glimpse into each other’s world. Or perhaps it’s your tale of a universal “first.” What it the story of your first date? Your first kiss?
I remember being Patrol Boy for my school. I got to wear the Official White Belt and direct children across the street and safely to school. Today’s ‘Patrol Children’ have been relegated to the safety of the sidewalk while parents who wouldn’t dream of letting their child walk to school alone yell at the other parents to slow down and stay in their designated lane for drop-off. But Patrol Boy was a tough job! I once had to report a classmate for disobeying the rules. She crossed the street when I told her not to. I reported her to the principal. Her ‘boyfriend’ beat me up after school. It was fifth grade!
Digital Data Exchange
Hooray for technology! My granddaughter Katie and I have used it to enable exposure to each other’s taste in music. I shared The Weavers with her. She gave me a taste of the Black-Eyed Peas. What fun we can have using their cell phone—the one we wish they would put away. But you know the phrase—if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
Look up things together. Show me your favorite movie star and I will show you mine. Sophia Loren can stand up to any of the big stars today. What fun it is to see what their favorite movie is, or which headline that scares them the most, to know the things they dream about doing when they grow up.
With technology, as they share their dreams, you can watch videos together about how they could do it and who has done it before. You can research in minutes the best college for their career choice, the best place to live for their plans to come alive. Even if it may take them far away from you, for the moment you can simply support their idea, infusing them with the passion to do anything.
Stories about Firsts
My first job was to deliver the Herald American newspaper in Chicago, using a second-hand bike. I dreamed of saving $26 and going to the Sears and Roebuck near my house and getting a brand new bike. I started the job in the fall, saved the $26 and bought my bike. I always brought my bike inside—right into my bedroom—each night. It was my pride and joy and I couldn’t chance it getting stolen. I kept that job through Christmas and collected gifts from happy clients. And then I quit. I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school. I didn’t want to ride my bike in the cold. (Maybe I should check with their parents—my adult children—before sharing that story.)
After I graduated high school I went into army because my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college. I took advantage of the GI bill. I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. I was the first in my family to get a college degree. My dad had 12 brothers and sisters, none of whom finished high school. None of their children, my cousins, went college. I was the only one to go. My wife told me later how proud they were of me about this accomplishment. They never told me, but they told her. I share the story with my grandchildren to let them know how proud I am o them and their accomplishments.
Taking time to connect
I share these stories with my grandchildren and ask them to share theirs. Learning about the other, leaving your own self to experience the world of the other…it enhances the love and relationship when you do this with your grandchildren. It’s a back and forth that lets you connect on a deeper level.
For me, I have asked my adult children to buy the textbook my grandchild is reading in school. I watch the shows they mention they like; I have weekly calls to visualize their daily lives. I share with them my world and what I need from them, as I offer to be there, unconditionally, for them.
Your world plus their world equals a bigger world. And it nourishes a loving, connected relationship that is out of this world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JERRY WITKOWSKY
What ideas have you implemented in your family? How do you unleash your creativity and unique gifts to transform your family? Please share with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author of The Grandest Love and a long-time social work professional, grandparenting activist, and passionate grandpa, author Jerry Witkovsky offers fresh approaches to help grandparents enter their grandchild’s world, to leave values, not just valuables and create a living legacy.www.thegrandestlove.com.
Over the past year, Jerry has undertaken extensive research and evaluation to support the transformative effect grandparents can have on families and communities when they enter their grandchild’s world via a Grandparent Connection School Program. Learn.