Several years ago, author Juliet Rothman’s 13-year old granddaughter told her about her first date and then asked Juliet to describe her first date. At that moment she realized that our lives matter to our grandchildren as much as theirs do to us. She was inspired to write her book, Grandparenting with Heart: . . .and Love,, and Care, and Wisdom.
The idea for Grandparenting With Heart came from watching, learning, and talking with both grandparents and grandchildren. Juliet wrote the book to help grandparents share their experiences with their grandchildren through meaningful conversations that will stay with them and with us for many years. Her book is based on the familiar quote by Hodding Carter: “There are only two things we can give our (grand)children, one is roots; the other is wings.”
Juliet explained that we see our own traits, and often our own questions, struggles, and challenges mirrored in our grandchildren. We pass on to them “roots” which include the wisdom of our years and life experiences. Upon these “roots,” each grandchild will build a superstructure that is uniquely his or her own. We seek to understand and build a relationship that enables us to nurture and develop their “wings.”
I invited Juliet to speak at our November GaGa Sisterhood meeting and she asked our members to answer the following question:
What is one thing you hope your grandchild remembers about you from your last visit together?
Here are some of their answers:
- Grandma is fun and flexible
- Grandma is generous
- Grandma listens and takes us seriously
- Grandma always says “yes”
- Grandma is fun and acts silly
- Grandma loves unconditionally
- Grandma is a good sport
- Grandma laughs a lot
The factors that influence our relationship include our age, health, spouses/partners, relationship with our adult children, our communication style, our values, and where we live in relation to our grandchildren.
The other key factor is our grandchildren who live in a world very different from our own. We think differently, feel differently, and call upon very different sources of knowledge. In order to cultivate a deep and cherished relationship with our grandchildren, we need to understand both their world and the way that their youth impacts their relationship to it.
Juliet is a social worker who has worked with elders for more than 25 years, taught students in every grade from pre-school to Ph.D. and has written many textbooks as well as a memoir on grieving. She has interviewed and held focus groups with both grandparents and grandchildren in order to understand their concerns and interests. Her book emphasizes relationship building and meaningful mutual sharing.
Grandparenting With Heart is a wonderful guide for reflection and personal growth to help us explore our important role in the lives of our grandchildren, their parents, and society at large. Each of us has a unique and different context in which our grandparenting happens.
Advice From Grandchildren
Her favorite chapter in the book is the advice grandchildren offer to their grandparents.
- Use our technology — we’ll teach you.
- Reach out to us frequently and be emotionally present with us.
- Food is a great conversational tool.
- Do fun stuff with us — don’t just sit around.
- Know our culture — our sports, music, movies, games.
- Tell us what it was like when you were our age (in small doses!)
- Act your age. Don’t talk like us, dress like us or act like us.
- Talk to us about ideas and model your values.
- Respect us for who we are.