What if you don't have any older people in your life?
Published: August 30, 2014
By: Carol Alexander
My father passed away the day before my oldest child’s sixth birthday. We moved 1,200 miles away from our extended family three years later. Consequently, my children never had a grandpa to play catch, go fishing, or do other grandfatherly things with. But they do have “grandfathers” in their lives.
Ed and his wife sold glassware and tools at the flea market next to my husband. The two immediately hit it off; but Ed took a special interest in our boys. He wanted to know if they could do some yard work for him. What started as a working relationship turned into Ed becoming a surrogate grandpa. He took the boys to hunting and gun shows, attended birthday parties, and fished alongside them from his river bank.
Maybe your children’s grandparents are living, but live too far to visit regularly. While the Hallberg’s grandparents were on the mission field, another older couple filled in on special occasions, says Rebekah Hallberg, mother of three. “They participated in the special ways that the grandparents might, like birthdays, phone calls and meals together.”
The Zechmans have done the same thing. Not living near biological family has caused them to turn to other older adults in their lives. The surrogate grandparents they have adopted “go out of their way to treat the children like they are their own and the kids love them like they’re blood relatives,” says mom Megan.
What if you don’t have any older people in your life? Not a problem. “Ask around, at church or in your neighborhood, to see if anyone knows of an older person or an older couple who might benefit from the joy of having children in their lives,” says Hallberg. “Chances are, someone knows of a couple who could benefit from the love your kids can offer.”
If your children are involved in the community, friendly with the neighbors, or otherwise relate to people from older generations, grandparents are there to find. My mother taught sewing lessons for young girls at a local quilt shop. After she left the shop, one of the mothers approached her about continuing her daughter’s lessons from her home. Mom agreed. What started as a teacher/student relationship turned into Mom becoming a substitute Nana. Mom and Haley spent many evenings working on pageant dresses, fair projects, and Christmas gifts together. Haley even spent precious time with biological grandsons who visited for the summer. When Mom passed away, all the grandkids embraced her as another cousin.
Families are faster-paced than they used to be. Between sporting events, music practices, and technology, our children are kept busy a lot more. This difference may affect how our children view the elderly and growing old. One way to help them embrace the difference is by exposing them to the lives of older adults. Including grandparents (biological or not) in our daily activities is important for the social and emotional growth of our children. So, if your parents are not available, find some who are. Help your children build those relationships. It will bless them; and it will bless the adults involved.
As a child, freelance writer Carol J. Alexander frequently spent weekends camping with her grandparents – as did all her cousins.