In my family I’m Grandma Kathryn. Oh, and also Mum, Kath, Aunty Kath and Kathryn.
Grandma Kathryn is my most recent title and initially the most perplexing. I was confident about becoming a sister-in-law, an aunty, a daughter-in-law, a wife and then a mother.
Why was becoming a grandmother different?
My beautiful little grandson was born in another state. I met him when he was two weeks old. I was no sooner off the plane and at his home when his parents popped him in the pram for me to take him for a walk.
I had better explain something about myself. I have long had a passion for taking care of babies and small children. As a young child I sought out families in the neighbourhood who had babies and young children and I would offer my help. I was confident and capable. We had neighbours with twins and I would be there most evenings helping with the babies. I had numerous cousins with babies and at family functions the adults would happily hand over the caring responsibility to me, and to ‘top this off’ I have had a long career in early childhood education.
Why on earth did I suddenly feel completely unsure and nervous when setting off with this precious baby boy? Before crossing each road I looked to the left, looked to the right, looked to the left, looked to the right, looked to the left, looked to the right, and when I was completely sure there was absolutely no car in sight I crossed the road with the pram!
We stopped at the park. I sat on a bench with the pram and baby facing me and I looked at this beautiful little face. I introduced myself, ‘I am your Grandma and I’m feeling really nervous’.
This was our first conversation and I can still feel the intensity of the beginning of this precious relationship.
Why are conversations with grandparents different from other adults in the family? The obvious response is when we are with our grandchildren we have the time to give them our full attention. However I think there must be more to it.
Grandparents have an invisible thread of connection to their grandchildren that is as strong as a cable of steel and as flexible as a bungee rope. Our grandchildren instinctively know we want to be with them no matter where or when.
Grandparents are not distracted by the responsibilities of daily life. We are not feeling the scrutiny of other grandparents. We are not feeling the guilt of perhaps not doing it quite right. We are not influenced by the opinions, expectations, education, financial status or life experience of other grandparents. We are as one when it comes to the joy of being a grandparent.
Neuroscience and early childhood research tells us that children learn best in nurturing relationships. Grandparents are in a special position when it comes to sharing and encouraging their grandchildren’s curiosity and joy of discovery.
Over the past four years my darling little grandson and I have had many and varied conversations in the park where I first took him in his pram. We usually take quite a long time to walk to the park. We have talked about spider webs in front fences and gates, cracks in the path, a broken paling fence with nails protruding, flowers, road repair machinery and everything and anything that caught his eye or mine.
Our walks together have precious moments of discovery and understanding and a connection through conversations that I will always remember.
The conversations grandparents have with their grandchildren while they are gardening, cooking, playing, reading and sharing books, tidying the house, shopping or walking in the neighbourhood can contribute to their grandchildren’s learning. The special interests and daily activities of grandparents and their grandchildren provide a wonderful platform for conversation. The questions asked by adults and children are the catalyst for thinking, wondering and searching for knowledge and understanding.
Who could ask for more?