Nearly eight years ago my life changed in the most extraordinary way. I became a grandparent. Friends who had reached this stage before me often told me that it was the best thing that ever happened to them. I was skeptical, but knew that one day I would find out for myself. Well, all I can say is that they were right.
Having a grandchild, especially one who lives nearby so you have regular contact with them, is probably the best gift I have ever received. I have watched him grow and learn over the past seven years and know that I have done the same.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once stated that connections between the generations are “essential for the mental health and stability of a nation.”
Grandparents have always been important. Today, they’re even more important. In busy, two-career and single-parent families, an involved grandparent goes a long way to filling a void for children. In some more extreme situations, the courts have found it’s often a grandparent who can reach a troubled teen or provide the stability and support for a young child when no one else can.
On a lighter note, a teacher friend of mine had her fourth grade students talk about their heroes one day in class. One girl said her grandmother was her hero. When the teacher asked why, the girl explained, “Because she’s the only one in the whole world who can boss my parents around!”
This coming Sunday, September 13th, is National Grandparents Day. The impetus for a National Grandparents Day originated with Marian McQuade, a housewife in Fayette County, West Virginia, with the behind-the-scenes support of her husband Joseph L. McQuade. Together they had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.
Mrs. McQuade envisioned three purposes for Grandparents Day.
- To honor grandparents.
- To give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children.
- To help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.
But, her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. She spent much of her life advocating for older adults. In 1971 she was elected Vice-Chair of the West Virginia Committee on Aging and appointed as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. In 1972, Mrs. McQuade’s efforts resulted in President Richard Nixon proclaiming a National Shut-in Day. She served as President of the Vocational Rehabilitation Foundation, Vice-President of the West Virginia Health Systems Agency, and was appointed to the Nursing Home Licensing Board, among many other involvements.
Mrs. McQuade started her campaign for a day to honor grandparents in 1970. She worked with civic, business, church, and political leaders to first launch the day in her home state in 1973. Then, after many years, much persuasion, and unending persistence, she finally achieved her bigger goal. It was in 1979 that President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday after Labor Day each year as National Grandparents Day (September was chosen to signify the “autumn” years of life). In part, the proclamation reads:
Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us. Whether they are our own or surrogate grandparents who fill some of the gaps in our mobile society, our senior generation also provides our society a link to our national heritage and traditions.
We all know grandparents whose values transcend passing fads and pressures, and who possess the wisdom of distilled pain and joy. Because they are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take daily responsibility for them, they can often reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations.
Mrs. McQuade was thrilled when her efforts were finally realized. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said. Since the holiday’s inception, Mrs. McQuade remained firm in her view that the holiday should not become overly commercialized, and that young and old remember its fundamental spirit.
~Source: Legacy Project, Generations United ~
GROWING UP GRANITE
Our friends at Generation United have some Grand Things that you can do this week, and every week in recognition of Grandparents and Grandchildren.
Every day this week:
- Follow our Twitter, Facebook, and website and share the Generations United messages. Check out our Grandparents Day Social Media Guide for sample content. Make sure to tag your messages #DoSomethingGrand.
- Let your grandparents, grandchildren and other older and younger people in your life know you think they are special.
- Volunteer with and advocate on behalf of another generation.
- Encourage your friends and family to swap their regular Facebook profile or cover photos with one that includes their grandparents and/or grandchildren and keep it up throughout the week.
- #TakeAGrandie for Generations United’s “Grandie” contest! Learn more.
Tuesday, September 8
- Find out why, as a kid, our Operations and Social Media Manager Adam Hlava enjoyed going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in his “Grandparents Week Blog: Jack and Marion Hlava“.
Wednesday, September 9
- Check out our newly revised Take Action Guide and plan an intergenerational service activity.
- Learn about children raised by their grandparents in the Generations United Grand Successes: Stories of lives well-raised.
- D.C. elders who care about the environment can Do Something Grand at the Grandparents Climate Action Day tomorrow! – learn more. For more ideas, check out our Environmental Awareness and Action Guide.
- Read this transformative moment our Deputy Executive Director Jaia Peterson Lent had, as a kid, with her grandpa in “Grandparents Week Blog: I Love You“.
- Read The Hadley School for the Blind’s article, “Putting the ‘Grand’ Back in Grandparenting After Vision Loss“
Thursday, September 10
- Check out past winners of Generations United’s Best Communities Awards for ideas on how to make your community more intergenerational. If your community is already a great intergenerational place, download the application [new link coming soon!] and apply today!
- Learn what our Special Projects Director Sheri Steinig learned when she looked back on her luck in “Grandparents Week Blog: Fortunate“
- Check out The Hadley School for the Blind’s webinar (2pm CDT/3pm EDT), which offers suggestions and resources to help grandparents faced with age-related vision loss to put the “grand” back in grandparenting. Learn more.
- Register a Young Adult to Vote. Pass on strong civic values to the next generation by encouraging at lease one young person to register to vote. Learn more and see other ideas in our Take Action Guide.
Friday, September 11
- Take a Tour of Your Town. Learn more about your hometown, as well as your grandparent or grandchild. See other ideas in our Take Action Guide.
Saturday, September 12
- Interview a grandparent/grandfriend and enter the Listen to a Life Essay Contest.
- Involve Your Faith-Based Community. Ask your religious leader to mention Grandparents Day during a faith-based service or plan a special intergenerational service during this time. See other ideas in our Take Action Guide.
Sunday, September 13 – GRANDPARENTS DAY
- Encourage your friends and family to visit or contact their grandparents and grandfriends.
- Volunteer Together. Older adults and youth can make a difference by volunteering and having fun at the same time. See other ideas in our Take Action Guide.
All Year Round
- Do Something Grand throughout the year. Check out the Generations United website for helpful information and resources.
- Celebrate Grandparents Day all year long. Check out our Take Action Guide for ideas.
- Start planning for next year’s Grandparents Day – Sunday, September 11, 2016.
Happy Grandparents Day!!