Fact: Today, there are 70 million grandparents in the USA.
Grandparents represent one-third of the US population with 1.7 million new grandparents added to the ranks every year.
Fact: Grandparents love being grandparents.
72% think being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.
Fact: They are younger than ever before.
43% became grandparents in their fifties, 37% in their forties, with the average age of grandparents in this country at 48.
The facts above are from grandparents.com, an upbeat site where “it’s great to be grand”. Their enthusiasm is catchy. As is the idea of Grandparents Day. Started in the USA, today Grandparents Day has gone international. To name a few, it’s now celebrated in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Poland, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Singapore. And beat this. If Grandparents Day were to extend worldwide, about 2 billion people would be honored.
Background behind Grandparents Day
The idea for a National Grandparents Day in the United States originated with Marion McQuade, a coal miner’s wife and mother of 15 children in West Virginia. Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. But she also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. In 2013, that date falls on September 8th.
The essay below reflects the thoughts and emotions of Kim Aubrey, a blogger from Australia. It tells what becoming and being a grandmother means to her.
“Five little ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away, Mother Duck said….” I hesitated as I listened to the sounds coming from the house.
“Quack, Quack,Quack, Quack!” my 2 ½ year old granddaughter impatiently chimed in. “Nana, why do you keep forgetting?’
The sunshine played through Cora’s hair as she sang the rest of the song.
A long low guttural groan came from the house. My eldest daughter, Louise, was in the last stages of labour. This was her first homebirth.
I continued to sing, louder this time. “Old McDonald had a farm, eieieo, and on that farm he had a….”. I stopped as I heard Louise groan again.
Cora, oblivious to what was going on inside, completed the verse “Cow! Mooooooo. Nana, Moooooooo!”
Another groan. This time it was higher in pitch, more distressed.
My son-in-law, Greg, a picture of determined calm, came to the verandah. Only his voice gave the situation away.
“Louise wants apple juice ….now.” Greg emphasized. “ I’ve got none. Can you get some from the service station please?”
Another groan, more desperate. Greg’s t-shirt disappeared through the door.
Cora and I left for the store. Trucks whizzed up and down the highway, horns blared, the woman in the queue ahead of us moved in slow motion taking her money out of her wallet. The groans played in my head while my stomach clenched. My world was spinning so fast, completing another revolution of the circle that had started long before I was born.
“Your hand feels bouncy, Nana.” Cora announced.
“And yours feels like a princess’s, Cora.” I replied.
Greg’s voice yelling out my name as we came towards the front gate clutching the apple juice propelled my rubbery legs into action. No time for thoughts. I scooped up Cora in my arms and ran towards the house, trying to breath, trying to tell Cora that this was the moment.
“Be happy, “ I whispered to Cora. “ Mummy is happy.”
“Don’t think, Kim,” I told myself, “Don’t think. Just do.”
Louise. Eyes closed, head slumped on the poolside, summoning her energy, focusing on her job. In the pool, under the water, Isla had begun to make her way into the world, not yet having taken her first breath, still attached to her Mummy. I held Cora as we watched Isla’s arrival.
The circle of life. The first separation from womb to world. My child delivering her child. Unbridled pride, love and admiration. Awe spilling from my heart, my eyes, my very being.
Quiet. Peace. Calm. Family. Witnesses to the first breath. Trustees of a new soul. No luckier grandmother on earth.
Isla is the third of my grandchildren. I have five and number six is due on Xmas Day this year. Again, I will have my trembling hands held by the big sisters of the new baby as we welcome the child into the world. Again I will marvel at the strength of my daughter and it will be very hard not to be a blubbering mess as I watch my baby deliver her baby. Again I will photograph the birth and create a book of memories.
Is there any greater gift in life than to be a grandparent? I don’t think so. I’ve thought about the diamonds and pearls and the satin and laces of past gifts, but none compare to the cuddles and kisses of a grandchild.
My “five little ducks” have more chance of knowing me than I did with my grandmother. My Nana only had a Box Brownie camera and her notepads and pens. Luckily, she was a “list keeper”. She never threw out her notepads full of chemist lists or bill payments. Today, these lists give me a peek into her real life. But as I scan her old sepia photographs and her lists, and enlarge the photos to see every detail, I wish I had her beside me to fill in the gaps of the stories.
There will be less reason for my grandchildren to wish that when I am gone, merely because of the era they live in. They have technology. If a grandparent lives far away they have email, Skype, and instant overseas telephone calls.
They also have smartphone apps like Saving Memories Forever that allow you to record and share family stories. Creating these records is as easy as asking a question and pressing a button. They will hear my voice as I tell them about my experiences. Maybe they’ll chuckle when they hear me tell my favorite jokes. Maybe they’ll smile as they look at pictures of me in the midst of those experiences. I think they’ll doing all that.
My grandchildren also have social media. Are you aware that you can download your complete Facebook profile and save it as a document? Imagine if my grandmother had been on Facebook during the world wars or the Moon landing. Imagine if she made short quips about her interests. Just imagine how much more I would know about her now. My children and grandchildren are able to do that.
Whilst the US has been celebrating Grandparents Day since 1978, Australia (where I live) has only just picked up on the idea and will be celebrating Grandparents Day for the second time on October 28, 2013. While I like the idea of Grandparents Day, I don’t need a cake or party on that one day to feel special. I feel that honour every time I bend down to marvel at a bug with Cora. I feel the joy every time Milly puts on a puppet show for me. I burst with pride every time Isla asserts her independence over the potty. I can’t control my smiles each time Taya climbs onto my lap to have a book read. I feel the contentment as I wrap my first grandson in his blankie and give him a bottle.
All I want is for that to continue and for my children to record those moments so that in years to come, these 5 little ducks will be able to see just how much I love them. If you are a grandparent or have a grandparent in your family, save their memories by whatever means you can. They want you to.
Kim Aubrey is an Australian genealogist who has been researching for over 20 years. Kim shares ownership of kkgenealogy.com with her youngest daughter, Kristy, and undertakes all research with the “digging deeper, learning more” approach . To date, KKGenealogy has published 6 books. You can connect with Kim via kkgenealogy.com.