I am one of the very lucky people in life to have had an incredibly loving relationship with three of my grandparents, so when I read this article it resonated with me so strongly that I wanted to share it with you.
My maternal grandfather died when I was 20, and he had an enormous impact on my life. He was a kind, generous and gentle man who I never once saw angry or lose his temper. I have always tried to be like him. He worked in the retail industry and always encouraged me to become a teacher, as he would have liked to have been a teacher himself as a young man, but never had the chance. When my father had plans for me to become a jackeroo when I finished school so that I could work on the land, it was my grandfather who convinced him to let me go to university and become a teacher. If it wasn’t for my grandfather, I’d be shearing sheep or sowing crops now instead of writing this article! I can’t express the gratitude I have for my grandfather, who literally changed my life by encouraging me to follow my passion, rather than doing something just to make my parents happy.
My maternal grandmother died when I was 40, and my paternal grandmother died when I was 49, so I was blessed to have these two very special women as active participants in my life for most of my adulthood and they have both had a profound influence on who I have become as a person.
My maternal grandmother was the epitome of elegance. She always wore a dress, had her hair set every Friday with a blue rinse and had an amazing collection of hats. It was from her that I learned to value your personal presentation and to try to look the best you can at all times. This is probably where my obsession with neat school uniforms comes from! My nan’s house was always immaculate and there was never a thing out of place. She liked routine and order and meticulous planning. The more I think about it, the more I am becoming my grandmother as I get older! She was also the most amazing baker and it is because of her that I have always had a sweet tooth and loved cakes, slices and desserts! My grandmother also had an amazing garden and it is from her that I learnt to love gardening. Whenever I visited her she would give me cuttings from her garden which she had potted for me. Whenever I smell a daphne plant or see a camellia or a hydrangea, I instantly think of my nan.
My paternal grandmother was the life of the party. She loved to entertain and to be surrounded by friends and family, which I have no doubt came from her being the youngest of 13 children. Nan was a keen sportswoman, playing golf and tennis until late in life and she avidly followed AFL and always encouraged me to play sport and be active. She had a fantastic sense of humour, an incredible laugh, and a warmth about her which others always responded to. People always gravitated towards my nan because she was so positive, inclusive and welcoming. Nan taught me the importance of opening your home to others and the joy that you derive from entertaining a crowd of people and doing things for others.
Although my grandmothers were polar opposites in personality, I knew that they shared one common interest and that was me. I am unashamed to say that I was their adored grandson and I felt that, with both of them, I could be my true self. I knew that my grandmothers loved me unconditionally and I could discuss absolutely anything with them. They would always give me an honest answer and sound advice. Some of the happiest moments of my life were the times that I spent with my grandmothers. Irrespective of where I was living in the world, I religiously called them at the same time each week and whenever I got home to my parents’ place in the country, my grandmothers would be the first people I would visit. With my grandmothers, I always felt loved, supported and valued.
Consequently, when I read the above article, I completely understood the sentiments being shared, as this article described the impact my grandparents had on my own life.
In an increasingly busy world, I think that it is vital that, as parents, we do absolutely everything in our power to develop the relationship our children have with their grandparents, even though our parents may drive us crazy at times. The relationship that our children will have with their grandparents is so incredibly different to the relationship we have with our own children. I don’t think we should ever take grandparents for granted and we should never underestimate the impact that our children’s grandparents will have on their lives. We need to find time for our children to spend with their grandparents and ensure that we give them uninterrupted time together, without us, so these relationships can grow uninhibited.
An investment in time for our children and their grandparents to be together will reap immeasurable positive impacts for our children. As was my experience, hopefully these will be some of the most formative, important, special and cherished relationships your children will ever experience in their lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Hemphill is the Head of High School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.