Treasure thy elders: Why grandparents are even cooler than Legos

On September 8th, we celebrate Grandparents' Day.  I have always associated September with grandparents; my grandmother, my sister and I all have September birthdays and it seems like a special time of year that we share.

My grandmother is my namesake, my friend, and the genetic source of whatever writing talent I have.  She once wrote a poem called "One More September" asking God to let her see just one more autumn, her favorite time of year.  She has made it to her 93rd September, but with rapidly failing health, this may be our last one with her.  Grandparents' Day is definitely going to be a little bittersweet for me this year.

I have been blessed to grow up with my grandparents nearby.  From the time I was small, they were part of my everyday life.  My kids are lucky enough to have their grandparents close too, and it's important to me that they realize what a treasure that is.

Diminish the Distance

If your kids are separated from their grandparents by distance, use all the sources we now have to stay in constant contact.  Telephone calls, emails, old-fashioned letters and cards (especially kid-drawn ones), and Skype allow your kids to have a face, a voice and a friend no matter the distance.  Even if you live close to them, be sure to have your kids call their grandparents frequently and keep them up-to-date on all their exciting news.  When they're drawing another beautiful picture for which your fridge has no space, suggest that Grandma and Grandpa would love to have one on theirs.  No matter how busy and crazy our lives get, it's worth the time to foster that relationship.

Remembering Grandparents who have Passed

If your children's grandparents or yours, have passed away, you can still make them part of your kids' lives.  Show them pictures often.  Have a memory wall somewhere in your home with pictures and memorabilia.  Tell your kids all the stories you can remember that they told you.  My grandfather passed away before my boys were born, but they know a lot about him.  He was a much better storyteller than I am and I will never be able to duplicate the twinkle in his eye, but I try.

Give them Common Ground

Sometimes the age gap between grandparents and kids (especially great-grandparents) can be overwhelming for little ones.  Finding some common ground eases any discomfort and makes kids relate much better.  My children's names all have some connection to their grandparents or great-grandparents.  I love that they know the meaning behind their name, and the connection to the generations before them.  If you have a budding artist or writer or carpenter who is following in a grandparents' footsteps, be sure they know that their talent is a shared one.  If your kids get their brown eyes, blonde hair or enormous feet from one of your parents, make sure they know who to thank (or blame).

Focus on the Intangible

Let's face it, grandparents are good at spoiling kids.  I feel like there's very little harm to it, as long as kids know that their relationship is about more than toys being given to them.  Both my parents and my in-laws are wonderful about bringing fun, unique gifts to my boys (along with lots of the aforementioned Legos).  About two years ago, my oldest started saying "What did you bring me?" the minute either of his grandmas walked in our door.   Aaaaah! Go ahead, cringe, I certainly did.  It didn't last long, because I convinced him that saying "Did you bring me a hug?" was a much better greeting.  Show your kids, by words and example, that you value their grandparents for much more important things than what they might buy.  We all know that what grandparents bring to our hearts is much more important than what they bring to your hands, but sometimes we all need a little reminder, whether we're 5 or 35.