Bonding the Grand-Zoomer Way

Last weekend, I was out of town for a wedding. When my cellphone rang and my daughter’s home number came up, my first thought was, “What’s wrong? Has something happened?” But it was my 12-year-old grandson Jack. He was just home from school and wanted to make fudge. He knew I could answer his question: “What the heck is evaporated milk, grammie?”

Jack and I have shared a special bond over the years, a bond that has changed as he has grown. When he was little, he always greeted me with rib-crushing hugs and often slipped me scraps of paper with “I love you, grammie” in loopy, sometimes reversed letters. Only last year, he wondered if I could “move next door” so he could come over whenever he wanted “to talk about something.” But I have noticed a distance as he approaches the teen years and his peers are the ones he talks to and admires. So I was beginning to feel a bit sad at the loss — until this phone call. We can still share a bond over cooking and baking. I’ll take it!

Why is this grand-Zoomer bond so important? Maybe because it works both ways. For children, a grandparent is their second best source of security, with praise, trust and unconditional love key to that security. Dr. Staci Illsley, a Vancouver psychologist specializing in children and adolescents, says, “You don’t get this relationship with anyone else. Grandparents play an important role in letting kids know they are being adored.”

In a busy, confusing world where parents have a lot to juggle, grandparents have the time and patience to be an important resource in their grandkids’ lives. Beverley of Nova Scotia says, “Parents don’t have time. I do. We hug a lot and I give lots of praise.” In a similar way I share a bond with Jack over baking, Beverley has taught her six-year-old granddaughter to knit.

Grand-Zoomers offer a secure haven, hopefully with no surprises.We listen without judgment, keep secrets and offer comfort. Brittany, now 28, of Calgary says, “When my parents divorced, I felt rudderless. My grandparents were there for me and made me feel secure.”

For grandparents, the bond is enriching because it gives them a second opportunity to impact a child’s life, an opportunity to be useful, even valued without the same responsibility that face parents at the end of the day. And let’s not forget the heart-happy, simple joy of being able to cherish another human being — unconditionally.

For many grand-Zoomers, the bond is somewhat unexpected. Wayne of Thunder Bay, Ont., admits he was becoming “a grumpy old man” until his first grandson came along a year ago. “When Simon was an infant, I didn’t have much to do with him, but now that he’s a year old, we play with trucks and he loves it when I sing and dance with him,” he laughs. “He makes me feel younger.”

Along with the pleasure and renewed purpose grandparenting offers us, we can also add value to our children’s lives, offering them respite from parenting, even reassurance they’re doing a good job. Maybe we can even make up for the mistakes we may have made as their parents. Now that’s a reward in itself!