Vive Life Together

Vive Life Together

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Anne in Southwestern France

Anne in Southwestern France

I recently returned from a trip to France.  I keep thinking of all that I saw and ate and drank and felt. By some extra piece of good fortune, I have been given something new and wonderful to think about.

As my sister and I walked through the crowded streets of a very old, beautiful seaside town, it was incredible to see so many grandparents carrying small children or holding their hands.  Grandparents were absolutely everywhere.

Often the children’s parents were along too.  Sometimes the young mother and father would be window-shopping as their children and parents walked ahead.  As an added benefit, the couples were given time to be entirely on their own, holding hands, too, while their children spent cozy time with grandparents, sharing ice cream cones or just being close together.  Strollers were rare.  Just about everyone was on foot or being held, providing an intimacy that was visible and so nice to observe.

What made these situations so striking for me is that I haven’t seen as much of it at home.  The closeness of grandchildren and grandparents in France seemed both familiar and so natural because the children have known no other way.  The families are together every day.  Some grandparents live with the younger families or very nearby.  The relationships seemed to work beautifully and benefited everyone.

The grandparents looked great, and not only because they eat beautiful things and have wine at lunch — not only because of their inimitable French style.  It seemed to me that their inner happiness and full hearts let them shine.  They are essential to their families and they know it.  Fulfillment, loving and being loved, shapes their lives. 

There are definitely exceptional grandparents right here in the USA as well.  They will do anything to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives.  These grandparents are playing, making things, reading, sharing ideas and fully caring for grandchildren, and making their grown children’s lives easier.   

Yet, in other families, often grandparents are visitors.  They feel it and their grandchildren do too. There is fanfare as they are met at and taken back to the airports or train stations.  Thanksgiving and holidays are looked forward to and enjoyed, and yet the naturalness that I glimpsed in France hasn’t had a chance to develop.  Only spending lots of time together makes this bond possible.

Our country is so big and people are so mobile that often grandparents live far away.  Frequent visits can be difficult and expensive.  There is no substitute for the intimacy of being with people day in and day out.  Yet, I wonder if there is a way to make a version of this great feeling possible for more families.  More telephone calls, mail, and Internet communication can offer more connectedness. Skype and Shutterfly books certainly help to share daily news and events.  More intimate knowledge of their grandchildren’s ordinary days would make visits more open and familiar.  Grandparents would be up to date in their first minutes together.  They would be in the present with their grandchildren rather than needing to be filled in on the spot and possibly missing bits of what is happening right then. 

As we grow older, we notice and treasure the time we are in more.  Close times have a way of creating more of themselves, which might be just what we all have been longing for without knowing it. Everyone will get used to this familial strengthening and love it.  Feeling that we are part of a happy swirl, all together is what we want, whoever we are.  Grandparents hold so much of the family’s future in their hands, if given the opportunity.  This is solid gold. Strengthening bonds, offering more chances for closeness will definitely make the lives of each family member happy and rich.

Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.

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