I loved my grandfather. I loved my grandmother as well, but my grandfather was special. He and I were kindred spirits, and I have these amazing memories of times we spent, just the two of us, at museums or hiking or stargazing at the golf course. I was the oldest of four, so any alone time with an adult was something I adored. We were the only readers in the family, and he bought me a subscription to National Geographic magazine because he wasn't at all impressed that I was spending so much time reading Sweet Valley High books. He taught me to play chess, he taught me about politics and history and I still think of him every day, even though he passed away a few years ago.
My husband was very close with his grandfather as well, spending time over there after school and on vacations. In fact, when we were thinking of a name for our son, it made perfect sense to name him after both of our grandfathers, Samuel and Earl. He was also very close with his maternal grandmother. He still talks about her, and she died almost twelve years ago.
Our own kids are blessed to have both sets of grandparents living locally. My inlaws live in in the same town as us, and my parents are just a couple of towns over. And while my kids see their grandparents all the time, I don't get the sense that there is as tight a bond as I'd like. I'm not sure why. But I think it has to do with alone time. We see them a lot, as a family. They come here for dinner, we go there for the afternoon. Get together for ice cream or to go to hockey game, go shopping or out for lunch. But it's always as a family.
The kids are getting older now - but for a very long time, I always had a little one. A little one that was nursing, specifically, and cried hysterically when I left. As a result, I didn't often leave. So while my older daughter Jessie has a closer bond with both sets of grandparents, it's not the same for my younger two. Sam and Julie's exposure to them has always been with either Marc or I there. What I never really thought about was that having a parent there, in a real sense, was a buffer that kept them from really bonding to them individually.
But just lately, things have gotten easier. Sam has become a lot more relaxed about going to visit people without one of us there, and Julie - well, Julie has always been pretty cheerful about hanging with people other than her parents. And I've really noticed that as they get older, they enjoy their grandparents so much more. They light up at the prospect of going to see their Grammy and Dzidia (polish for grandfather), and dinners at Safta (hebrew for grandmother) and Papa's house have become cause for celebration as well.
One think I really want to concentrate on this year is to really encourage those relationships. My kids are blessed with really wonderful grandparents that love and adore them. But they need time to nurture those relationships, time to build the same kind of memories that their dad and I have of special times spent with our grandparents. And in order to do that, we have to get out of the way. Let them be together, just the two of them, without having a parent to be in the middle.
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