In my teen years, spending time with my grandparents was a great chance to get away from my parents. But my kids definitely don't see things the same way.
Sarah Bowman: When I was a teenager, I spent spring break alone with my grandmother in Florida. I am sure that taking a flight from Boston to Miami on my own was a thrill and -- since those were the days before television had captured images of beer-soaked college kids getting wasted on spring break -- I had no idea that a quiet week on a golf course with octogenarians wasn't the height of luxury. After all, it was a break from homework, my siblings and ... let's admit it: Who didn't want to get away from their parents at the height of the teenage years?
What do I remember about being with my grandmother? The little habits of her day. How she put her rings aside on the sink when she did the dishes. How she brought half a box of Pepperidge Farm croutons back to her best friend, who was staying in the condo next door, so that neither of them would owe the other for the many meals shared. And how she liked raspberries more than any other fruit.
I suggested that my 16-year-old daughter spend a week with her grandparents this summer, and she looked at me like I was asking her to repeat the fifth grade. When you live on separate coasts, the grandparent relationship is an awkward one, borne more of duty than routine. Although my family and I spend a week in my hometown each summer, it's a beach week full of cousins stuffed into rambling house. We have always been too busy trying to keep kids fed and entertained to make space for one-on-one time with Gran or Papa. And maybe that's been the mistake.
I'm always jealous of friends whose parents live nearby and can babysit or invite the family over for Sunday supper on a regular basis. A different type of bond forges when grandparents get to be an integral part of a child's rearing. That's not the bond my kids got, and it saddens me to think I've denied that pleasure to my parents as well. What's a middle-aged daughter -- a woman who still can't eat a raspberry without thinking of her grandmother -- to do? With two parents in their eighties, I think it's time to solve this boomer-generation problem. Soon it may be too late.
|Sarah Bowman is the Co-Founder of Kids Off the Couch.com. She has a BA in Semiotics from Brown University and worked in the film business as a studio executive before becoming a writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two teenagers.|