Sunday, May 4, 2014

It's About Creating Memories

Would it be worth driving 4 1/2 hours for "Grandparents Day" at our granddaughter's school?  Last year, our daughter told us not to make the journey, thinking that the event would be no big deal. But Talia, then a first grader, was disappointed when we didn't show up. So last Friday, we made the trek, getting up at dawn to arrive in time.
The day underscored the impact that a "special elder" or grandparent can have on a child. Something I hadn't thought much about. (Perhaps selfishly, I'd thought about it the other way around-- the joy I got out of a grandchild.)
The kids had all written essays and drawn pictures, reflecting on why their grandparents were important to them. The school's principal summarized for us the themes that had emerged:
Memories are etched in the the children's minds of plaees and activities spent with 'special elders' -- "being in the kitchen with grandma when we bake cookies;" "the stream where I go fishing with grandpa;" "playing cards with Poppop in the dining room." And then there are the trips -- whether to exotic locations or just to the city.
Things like that.
But most important, the principal said, were  the stories that grandparents tell -- the family narrative. Coming to America. Surviving hard times. Giving children the sense of where they came from and the challenges that their ancestors faced and surmounted.
"Research shows," he said, that children who have a family narrative do better than children who don't."
A former student at this school was so touched by Grandparents Day, that when she grew up, she gave the school a sizable gift to support the day, with lunch, refreshments, but most importantly, an artist in residence, who works with the children on poetry and dance for a performance.
The theme last Friday was "migration." Butterflies may have been what the children depicted in clever choreography and costumes. But the "special elders" knew that a migration of generations was in progress.
While each of us grandparents had received the gift of an enduring memory of this day, we are creating for our grandchildren memories that will endure long after us.


Linda P. said...

We once attended a grandparents' day when we had been evacuated from our house and were staying with our daughter and her family. Wildfires had spread across our state, and we weren't the only grandparents who had been displaced. While we would have--and had in the past--driven the two and a half hours to be there anyway, I thought how lucky we were to have a family to support us when we were evacuated. Those children didn't care how we were dressed that day when some grandparents showed up in the clothes they'd been wearing when evacuated. Their faces brightened anyway when they came through the hall and saw us all standing there.

Nancy Agneberg said...

We recently moved to live closer to our grands. Instead of 4 hours away, we are now six blocks awash from their house and three from their school. Our intention was to be helpful to our daughter and her family during these busy years (and yet still maintain our own life!). Surprise--I fell and broke my ankle this winter and guess who needed the help! Help works both ways, and our decision to move closer has been totally affirmed.

Wendy lee said...

Thanks for sharing this lovely story. I have read about the idea of family narratives being important to children's development and it makes sense to me, especially because I trained as a family therapist.