It’s Time; for Parenting on a Grander Scale
“Money, it’s a gas,” said Pink Floyd a long time ago. They sang about Time, too, and Time is Money, so they say.
They’re all granddads, now, Pink Floyd, those of the band who are still alive.
I’ve been thinking of Time, Money and Grandparents recently.
This blog post is about all three, and directed at the latter.
My own parents are grandparents of course; my daughter recently had her eight birthday. My parents sent her money to buy LOL dolls – in my opinion the perfect example of our modern consumerism addiction; have a look at one being opened on YouTube to see how we are manipulated by marketing departments. Her grandparents who live here, with whom she spends every Wednesday afternoon, also gave her money to buy these dolls, of which she has a dozen already.
It’s this consumerism I am trying to avoid, for my kids, and for the kids of the world. And the key, kinda, is exactly in their grandparents.
My mother says she buys these toys nowadays because when my siblings and I were young she didn’t have the money to afford them for us.
But nowadays I can afford all these silly bits of plastic myself, if I chose to give them to my children.
And what can my parents (and in-laws) give my kids that I can’t so much, that parents of our generation with our two-salary mortgages have in short supply?
What my parents had, at least my mother, to give us when we were small was time.
And it’s the time we all remember.
I remember being picked up by one granddad, getting porridge when he took me to their house to wait for my mother. I remember watching him gardening, going into his aviary, and he died when I was about 8. I remember going shopping and having tea and biscuits (custard crèmes, of course) in my granny’s house all through to my teens. I had motorbike rides up and down the cul-de-sac with my other granddad while he was still allowed to have one. I do remember getting some pocket money from them, but I can’t recall a single thing I did with that money.
My grandparents were all old by the time I came along. Everyone was older back then.
Nowadays, grandparents have an ever more special place in their grandkids lives. Many are looking after them full-time while the parents work. They’re often basically second set’s of parents.
That might sound harsh for the working parents.
In fact, this is an amazing opportunity.
We all know that we had better childhoods than our kids do nowadays. We were outdoors from dawn to dusk, getting up to our ears in mud and all that.
Well, instead of having them stuck on the sofa all afternoon, grandparents can show the kids the things that we did when we were kicked out of the house – that they themselves, their parents and grandparents and all the generations before them did before kids suddenly stopped going outside in the last couple of decades.
Get dirty, climb trees, mess around in the muck.
You don’t have to wash the clothes!
What are your kids going to do? Get mad at you because they have to put on a washing machine? Who doesn’t wash their kids clothes after every use anyway?
Are they going to find another child-minder? Yeah. Exactly.
It might seem a challenge to take the screens away from some kids – that’s the parent’s job, and you don’t want to fight with your grandkids. You want them to be happy to see you. True. Talk to your kids. Make them leave the screens at home, or locked up while at work.
After a few weeks without being glued to their tablet or telephone, the children will thank you for the great fun they had in the park, at the beach, in the forests. Bring them to a golf course if they’re old enough. Anything to get them out of the house.
When it’s your grandchildren’s birthday, take them on a field trip, a weekend away, a boat ride, a train journey, an adventure park. Gift them money towards a plane ticket if you really want to – not to Disneyland, but to a campsite in the south of France, or the Alps, a hiking holiday in the Pyrenees, fishing in Connemara. Anywhere they’ll have an experience that will serve them in the future when they are adults, that will make them stronger, calmer, more patient, more thoughtful. Experiences they can look back on and draw on.
You know they shouldn’t be inside.
You know they would be better people, happier, more resilient, more understanding of suffering and its relative importance if they climbed a few trees, fell off a few walls.
And please, please, don’t say, “They’re not my children.”
They are. They’re everybody’s children. They’re our future.
They’ll remember the events, not the trinkets.