I keep hearing the term ‘modern grandparent’. But is there really such a thing? Or is the term wishful thinking, perhaps even an unfortunate oxymoron?
Of course we wouldn't want a return to the days when grandparents were synonymous with silent Sunday teas, ritual Christmas visits and awkward farewells. It's unlikely that level of remoteness would be easily achievable in todays searchlight society anyway.
There are moments when I have the uneasy feeling that the 'generation gap' is still perceived as a kind of sociological deficit with its own raft of experts to advise us on how best to overcome it. For just as new parents are under pressure from the outset to read this book about child rearing or to watch that programme about how to deal with ‘terrible twos’, grandparents are urged – not always too subtly - to ‘get with it’, ‘keep up’ and ‘be cool’.
For the lucky ones keeping up is not something they’re necessarily conscious of. My own Mum has – to use a term she would be comfortable with – ‘moved with the times’. She texts faster than me, regularly surfs the internet and uses email. She has mastered her digital camera and is still one of those on a very short list of drivers I feel safe with.
Yet there must be a good many grandparents who find it a struggle. They may feel that their relationships are compromised as the grandchildren morph to and fro, from recognisable little darlings to inscrutable alien beings. For these family elders the years have probably proved that self deprecation is an effective form of defence against a madly spinning world. Unfortunately this particular strategy may not guarantee a fruitful connection with their children’s children in the long term. Perhaps it’s not so much ‘get with it’ as ‘get to it’. Declare your interest and nurture the two-way process.
I’m no expert but I do believe that, rather like the indigenous people in foreign places, children do actually respond to those who make an attempt to interact with the locals. They may huff and puff a little when your attempts go awry. They may contort with laughter when your phrase book lets you down, but points are awarded for trying.
Kids are pretty good teachers of their pet subjects and they love nothing more than for the boot to be on the other foot from time to time. Who knows, you may even win that elusive accolade and actually, eventually, become ‘cool’.
© 2009, copyright Martin T. Hodges