Do Grandparents Matter?

M. Sue Bergin, writing in BYU Magazine (Spring 2012), thinks so.  She reminded me that as the grandfather of 11 grandchildren, I do have responsibilities.  What those responsibilities are, however, seems necessarily vague, which opens up all kinds of possibilities.

Here They Are, All Eleven

Six of my grandchildren live close by, but the remainder live cross country in Virginia.  Thus, the opportunities to interact have a certain geographic determinism.  Additionally, each of our children (with their spouses) have different attitudes toward parenting, which impacts the opportunities my wife and I have to interact.

On a recent trip to Virginia, I found it useful to spend a little alone time with each grandchild.  This helped me understand the unique personalities and developing interests of each.  I noted that my oldest granddaughter had her room decorated in an African motif.  Since I like to travel, this gave me some ideas.

According to Jeremy B. Yorgason, assistant professor in the School of Family Life at BYU:

We’re not saying you need to do more stuff or spend more time with your grandchildren, but rather when you’re doing that interacting, make it meaningful.

Researchers at BYU also noted that grandmothers and grandfathers tend to play different roles.  I first thought this statement to be Mormon sexism.  Then I took it as a sort of indictment.  But then I realized that it was definitely true in the case of my wife and I.  As the grandchildren get older, I see myself wanting to take a more involved role.  I love to read, I love to walk and hike, I love adventure, I love to travel and enjoy other cultures, I love museums (particularly art museums), I love movies.  All these activities seem grandchildren friendly.

I have an added benefit; my mother is still alive and in fairly good health.  This opens up opportunities for 4-generation activities.  Ten of us–my mother, my brother and his wife, my niece, my wife, my daughter and her three children and I–recently toured southern Utah.  The age spread between the youngest and the oldest was 91 years.

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