For the last 25 years, The Grandest Love has been the focus of my life and work: researching and lecturing about grandparenting issues, facilitating support groups, and developing community-based programs that allow intergenerational bonds to flourish.
Along the way I’ve listened intently to hundreds of people’s stories – grandparents’ stories brimming with that special love, but often, too, with a fair amount of conflict and confusion.
Despite the fact that these grandparents were a diverse group, their concerns were startlingly similar. Things like:
- “How can I play an active role in nurturing my grandchildren when I’ve had a less-than-ideal relationship with one – or both – of their parents? How, too, can we all learn to respect each other’s boundaries, across the generations?”
- “How do I stay connected to grandchildren who live hundreds of miles away – or with ones who live nearby, but whose days are filled with back-to-back activities?”
- “With all the stresses and distractions of modern life, and in difficult economic times, how can we as a family unit be truly supportive of each other, enrich each other’s lives, and create lasting memories?”
- “What is my personal legacy to this family? And what can I do to make an impact, to impart something of value, while I’m still around?”
During my 47 years with a leading Chicago community-center system, I dealt with a number of gut-wrenching family dramas marked by abuse, neglect or severe dysfunction. Thankfully, the vast majority of us grapple with circumstances that are far less dire. Still: you worry. You want to get this grandparenting thing right. And with some thoughtful planning, you almost certainly will.
As Stephen R. Covey wrote in his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: “Good families — even great families — are off track 90 percent of the time! The key is that they have a sense of destination. They know what the ‘track’ looks like. And they keep coming back to it time and time again.”
Sound familiar? They’re the challenges and hopes that most of us share.