My grandparents on my mom’s side visited us annually during winter. We lived in Pietermaritzburg at the time and our grandparents always took my sister and I to Durban for a few days. We stayed in the same hotel every year, and “Sis” and I loved hanging out on North Beach. My grandparents traditionally attended the Durban July and betted conservatively, but knowledgably, on a number of the horse races and the “pick 6” – more for entertainment value than serious betting.
My grandma was a remarkable woman and matriarch of our family. Tough as nails and always elegant. She refused to wear swimwear, and would take us to the beach fully clothed in a dress and hat, but sit in the sand and build castles for hours. Her whiskey had to be served at 5pm on the dot with the salted snacks she liked, and she would read at least one Mills & Boon romance novel a week. When my grandma passed away at the age of 94 I was in my twenties. I miss her feisty wisdom dearly.
While on holiday and chatting about grandmothers, my friend Lara recalls certain “little wisdoms” that her own grandma, who lives in France, bestowed on her. I can just picture the stately French dame when she says: “Lara, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a princess. And remember to marry a man that eats with the same hands as you.”
THE NEW GENERATION
The reason why I have been thinking about my grandma so often is because I’m seeing how my 4-year-old, “Little”, is enjoying (and being enjoyed by) her two grandmothers. Both live outside of Johannesburg but try to see her and the other grandchildren as often as possible.
These two women both enrich Little in such different and remarkable ways. Ouma is a doctor, a scientist, a wealth of information and facts, and Granny is an artist, a dreamer and a storyteller. When Ouma visits, Little crawls into bed with her early in the morning. They both sip tea (Ouma often coffee), make oats, and read wonderful books. And when Granny visits, Little makes up elaborate stories which Granny expertly illustrates and they both enthusiastically tell me and Hubby. These moments are so special, and I’m convinced have a profound impact on the development of my child.
IT GOES BOTH WAYS
Upon further research, I found articles that verify that it is not only the children that benefit from a relationship with their grandparents, but the grandparents benefit too.
A recent study by Boston College found that “an emotionally close relationship between a grandparent and grandchildren is associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations.”
Dr. Karl Pillemer of Cornell University wrote, “… as many as 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren feel their grandparents influenced their values and behaviours. Grandparents transmit to their grandchildren the values and norms of social order.” Of course, this impact is more pronounced if the grandparent is the primary caregiver.
And another study showed that almost three-quarters of grandparents “think that being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.”
I could see the benefit that having grandchildren had on both Ouma and Granny. Ouma got a personal trainer to make sure she’s fit and strong enough to pick the kids up, and Granny started painting for the first time in a while and making homemade soft toys and dresses.
It’s fair to say that I’ll only fully understand the love that a grandma has for her grandchildren once I am one. It’s certainly a different, uncomplicated relationship compared to that of a mother and child.
Grandparents are forever a link to cultural heritage and family history. We should cherish them for as long as their lives will allow us to. Happy Women’s Month grannies, you’re very special and important to us.