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The Grandparent Connection by Laura Lucy

01/03/2017 11:49AM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Gallery: Grandparents [8 Images] Click any image to expand.

Many of my happiest childhood memories are of time spent with my grandparents. I remember making biscuits with my grandmother. I thought it was so cool to make a little valley in the flour and mix the milk in right there on the counter without a bowl. We would spend the whole afternoon in the swing in her backyard, taking a break only to pick blueberries. All the grandkids relished my grandfather’s insults which included creative put-downs like “blunderbuss” and “mullet head.” You could also count on him to have a gift for you almost every time you saw him, a toy, usually handmade in his woodworking shop out back. 

When I married my husband and we discussed starting a family of our own, moving as close as possible to some grandparents was at the top of my priority list. I had told Patrick on our first date that I would never move north of the Mason-Dixon line because I cannot handle cold weather. Since his parents lived in New York, that left us with one option. Less than six months into our marriage, we packed up and left Atlanta for Florida.

It would be more than three years before we officially promoted our parents to grandparents with the arrival of our daughter, Vivi. Considering we were well into our thirties when we got married, it was a long wait for our parents. According to them, it was well worth it. In an effort to learn more about this magical bond between grandparents and grandchildren, I decided to interview the experts – my parents.

I asked them how being a grandparent is different than being a parent. “Being a grandparent is just so special,” explained my mom, Darlene, better known these days as Mammi. “It’s a different feeling in your heart that I just can’t put into words.” 

Papa, the man formerly known as my dad Jim, chimed in with “You can send them home!” Ah, yes, the thing that makes grandchildren ever so much more lovable than children. He then added a bit more seriously, “You don’t have the pressure of raising a child. You just get to enjoy them.” 

When Vivi hangs out with Mammi and Papa, it is all about her. She can go to the mall where Papa always has quarters for the rides (side note: Mommy rarely has cash). She can bake cookies or make crafts with Mammi. She can swim until her skin shrivels and Mammi will wrap her in a towel and swing with her as they dry off while Papa makes her a sno cone. On the nights she sleeps over, Vivi usually gets to choose a restaurant to go out to dinner and talks Mammi and Papa into letting her stay up way past her bedtime.

As great as all of this is for Vivi, a recent study proved how it also benefits her grandparents. The Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia released results last year showing that grandparents who babysit their grandchildren are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders. Research has also shown that such intergenerational relationships lessen depression in grandparents as well as grandchildren.   

Grandparents are so much more than free (for most of us) babysitters. They are teachers, historians, genealogists, playmates, conspirators, secret keepers and memory makers. 

The next time you feel guilty about asking your parents to watch the kids so you can have a night off, don’t feel guilty. You are keeping them all healthy and happy. Enjoy your evening!

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