Today is Grandparents Day, a day set aside each year to honor America’s grandparents, the elderly and those living in nursing homes.

The idea for National Grandparents Day began with a Fayette County, West Virginia, housewife, Marian McQuade. Seeking to champion the cause of the elderly, McQuade hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could share.

Following a years-long campaign, President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. September was chosen to signify “the autumn years” of life.

National Grandparents Day has a three-fold purpose: To honor grandparents; to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children; and to help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.

As part of National Grandparents Day, we should also remember the shut-ins, and those in nursing homes who are unable to be with their families or have no families. Send cards, visit a nursing home, or better yet, families, schools and children can “adopt a grandparent” by working with a local nursing home.

Grandparents Day, at its core, celebrates the wisdom and knowledge of elderly folks who have truly gained a lifetime of experience. We can learn so much from them, and in the process, give something back to them.

In an ideal world, grandparents are the ... let’s say mature ... couple that Mom and Dad and the kids visit for an hour or two now and then, and maybe stay for dinner while Mom and Grandma fix dinner.

Grandpa plays with his grandchildren while Dad just watches. Mom and Dad might just leave the kids with their grandparents and go off to do something else for a while, then come back later to pick the youngsters up and take them home.

Sometimes, the kids even get to stay overnight with their grandparents while Mom and Dad have a date night.

Grandpa takes his grandson — and maybe his granddaughter — fishing or just for a hike in the park. Grandma shows her granddaughter — and maybe her grandson — how to bake cookies.

We’ve been told that being a grandparent is the best reward you can have for raising your children as well as the best opportunity you’ll ever have to get even with them (after all, they’re responsible for at least some of your gray hairs).

Fill the youngsters with candy, cake, soft drinks and ice cream — get them all hopped-up on sugar and don’t let them take a nap, then send them home late in the evening ... something like that.

We’ve also been told “I love my grandchildren. I also love being able to call their Mom or Dad and say ‘Come and get ‘em!’”

But this is far from an ideal world. Sometimes the ideal world actually does exist in the real world, and sometimes it exists only on television (but not as often as it once did, back in what many consider the golden age of family-oriented TV).

These days, some grandchildren don’t just go to visit their grandparents. They live with them and are being raised by them. These are called grandfamilies, and in some cases there are great-grandfamilies.

It is estimated that as of last year, more than 2.6 million grandparents were raising their grandchildren.

There are many reasons this happens, and it usually has to do with the parents being unable to raise their children for one reason or another.

Poverty, death of a parent, military deployment of a parent, incarceration of a parent, need for a parent to work out-of-town, neglect, child abuse, mental illness and substance abuse are said to be the leading causes.

“Psychology Today” says that grandparents sometimes take custody of their grandchildren because they don’t want them to be placed in foster care and be raised by someone else, with the possibility of never seeing them again.

Last year, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, which was designed to provide information and resources for grandparents who have embarked upon a second round of parenting the children of their own children.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who co-sponsored the act with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), said it was designed to help grandparents who are “replacing traumatic pasts with loving and hopeful futures.”

The National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights Inc., a nationwide network of grandparents, community members and professionals, offers a guide to resources for grandparents raising grandchildren at https://ncrc.org/resources-for-grandparents-raising-grandchildren/.

Happy Grandparents Day! Thanks for all you’ve done.

Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are.

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