This week marks Seniors Week in Queensland, and to celebrate we look at the special contribution grandparents make to the lives of our kids.
Grandparents – whether they be Nanna, Nanny, Grandma, G-pop, Poppa, or some unique nickname that’s deliciously special to your family – represent a safe harbour in crazy-busy daily life for many families. From regular childcare to the random sleepover allowing mum and dad some social time, to a sneaky chocolate out of their vintage handbag, the cheesiest of jokes, to the softest of hugs that smell of home, grandparents represent fun, safety, and completely unconditional love in a way that’s not tainted by the parental pressures of “brush your TEETH!”, “hurry up, we’re LATE!”, “you lost your school jumper AGAIN?!”.
Grandparents have time. Generally speaking, at least. They have the time to stop, listen, enjoy the special stories shared with their grandkids, make a mess, explain a time-honoured recipe, explore the leaves at the park. When parents are running here, there and everywhere trying to juggle work, school, extra-curricular activities, playdates, parties, and the general admin that keeps a home ticking over, grandparents offer respite – not just for the grandkids, but for the parents themselves.
And as any grandparent will tell you, there is something different about the arrival of a grandchild into the world. It is not fraught with the anxiety, expectation, concern and sometimes fear that the birth of your own child can bring. Instead, after a generation of parenting and a lifetime of experience, grandparents get to enjoy the pure love of a grandchild (and the pure relief of handing them back!).
My own grandma (Nana) was a crazy cat. The absolute matriarch of our family, she filled our school holidays with sleepovers, train rides to the city for a kids’ day out involving the movies, a cheeky McDonald’s treat (not that she ever ate ‘junk’ food; she’d bring her own snack from home while we chowed down on cheeseburgers – imagine!), and home-made pancakes that have never tasted as good as hers (was it the old-school gas stove? The seasoned frypan? The copious amounts of real butter? Or the fact that she made them especially for us, sprinkled with just the right amount of lemon and sugar, and they were an exclusive treat?). One year, babysitting sick kids home from school with chickenpox, she perked us up with a dress-up party at home, making quite the entrance as Wonder Woman, complete with grandma-undies outside her tights. See, crazy cat. But those memories are burned in my brain and soul, the highlights reel of a special relationship between nana and child.
Increasingly, Australian grandparents are caring for kids on a more regular basis. In 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics noted that 937,000 kids received child care from a grandparent on a regular basis. Grandparents fill the breach so that parents can go to work (541,000 kids were looked after by nana and pop for this very reason), so parents can have a break, enjoy sport or go shopping. With separation and divorce becoming more and more common, grandparents’ contributions to family life are becoming even more vital.
Seniors Week marks an opportunity to celebrate the way seniors add to our community. City of Gold Coast is supporting a wide range of events across the Coast, including Sunday with Friends this weekend at Robina – classical music and afternoon tea, with tickets for adults ($15) and kids ($5).