Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the amazing power of grandparents in women’s development and growth. I cannot tell you how many clients have told me stories of how despite turbulent childhoods; they were kept on a healthy path due to the influence of grandparents. This is especially true in my life.I had an incredibly chaotic and turbulent upbringing and when people ask me how I turned out to be a solid, and mostly healthy woman, my answer is, “my grandparents.”
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was particularly blessed in this department. I was the first and only grandchild (until the age of 15 when my only cousin was born) of all four of my grandparents! Not only that, but I was an only child which gave me extra ‘spoiling leverage’.
My parents were from the hippie generation and in short, provided a very unstable and unpredictable family environment. While I appreciate the creativity, open-mindedness, and interesting aspects of growing up like this, I most certainly suffered from lack of structure and stability growing up.
That’s where grandparents come in- they were my saviours during those years. I was blessed with being sent off to spend every summer with all four (alternating between both sets) and received 100% love, affection, and undivided attention from all four of them for at least two months of the year until I was twelve years old. I was the ‘apple of their eyes’ and I cannot possibly put into words what that has done for my development as a human being.
On my mother’s side, my grandfather, Mel, was the head of the Physiology department at the University of Alberta for 20+ years and came from the wrong side of the tracks of the Jewish ghetto of Montreal. He worked his way up from short-order cook to doctor and was a leader in his field of medicine.
My maternal grandmother, Ruth, escaped the Holocaust in Riga, Latvia in 1939 and came to Canada. She went on to become a biologist and teacher and raised three children.
On my father’s side, my grandfather, Ben, ran his own fish shop in London, England and upon retirement, opened a rare bookseller’s business- he was an avid reader and bookworm extraordinaire.
My paternal grandmother, Ida, had been an independent financially self-sufficient woman working as a bookkeeper before settling down and having a family in her mid-30’s.
All of my grandparents adored me, and I, them. From a combination of all of their guidance and love, I developed many passions and abilities including reading and studying, handicrafts, appreciating music and art, and cooking. I consider myself extremely lucky to have gotten to know and love all of these amazing people so well and to have them all in my life until my mid-20’s.
From all of my grandparents combined, I have learned too many things to list, so I will highlight the most profound:
- Don’t wallow in sadness and grief- you have to keep living despite tragic circumstances.
- Life is an incredible gift and you must live it to the fullest- there are so many amazing things to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell- try them all!
- Give to others selflessly and you will be given more than you can imagine.
- Educate yourself and learn as much as you can so that you can contribute to the world.
- Don’t buy a lot and don’t overspend, but when you do buy something; only buy the very best.
- Cooking and feeding others is one of the greatest pleasures in life- enjoy it!
- Don’t waste- it’s very bad indeed.
- Give to the poor and those in need- it could be you someday.
- Have hobbies that allow you to lose yourself in delight- they don’t have to be “productive”; just enjoyable.
- Maintain connections with friends and family and let them know how much they mean to you.
- Laugh lots- your only alternative is to cry.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously or you’ll be a drag to be around.
- Get out and see the world- it’s a fascinating place!
- Eat something fattening and indulgent even when you’re not hungry once in a while for the sheer pleasure of it.
- Sit in silence- you won’t die. In fact, you may even find some peace.
- Don’t carry a cell phone- why would you want people to be able to contact you at every minute of the day? That’s crazy!
- Computers make people grumpy so don’t use them too often.
- Babies and animals can bring so much pleasure- enjoy your time with them.
- Know who you are and where you come from. That way, you’ll have a better idea of where you’re going and how to get there.
- Working is highly overrated.
I’m guessing that you have some some ‘wise elders’ in your life or have had in the past. I encourage you to make a list of all the valuable lessons they taught you. Also, I believe that we always need elders and guides in our lives to navigate this fragile experience called ‘life.’ If you don’t have any, go out and find some. And it’s a win-win- they probably need you as much as you need them. As my granny often said when I asked her why she didn’t hang out with people her own age, “They’re no fun. I like young people better.”
We live in a society that unfortunately dismisses our wise elders and all that they have to contribute and this is a terrible waste of resources. I think that the young have so much to gain from hanging out with the old and vice-versa. So find a wise elder today and see how much you can learn.
I’ve got to go-my knitting group is waiting!