28 November 2009

Guest Post: New Elders (or Groovy Young Grannies!)

I had the good fortune to win Nan's contest (http://thingsivefoundinpockets.blogspot.com) to name the column she's writing for the Bournemouth Echo (Island Hopping). The prize is having Nan as a guest blogger! You'll like her writing.
I seized the opportunity to ask a member of the next generation what she wants from her elders for herself and her children. I like her answer. Who doesn't like being called the "New Elder" or a "Groovy Young Granny". This might start a trend to ask other guest bloggers to address this question. Thanks, Nan.

Guest Post:

The word “Elder” used to refer to a precious few people. In the days before antibiotics, retirement and central heating our lifespans were so much shorter than they are now that few people ever knew their great-grandparents.

My children have been fortunate enough to know two great-grandmothers well: They have told their stories of life in the olden days, the first car they ever saw, breaking ice to wash their faces in the morning, watching buildings bombed during two wars, getting a “new” dress cut down from three previous sisters. The great-grandmothers are the “Crones”, the storytellers.

Mary has asked me what I think of the New Elders, the groovy young grannies. Mum and I have also talked about the way the world has changed. When I was little we spent, as far as I remember, EVERY SINGLE Sunday with my nearby grandparents, and distant grandparents would come and visit for months! Grandparents nowadays are a different breed. They have a busy schedule and projects galore which keep them busy and make them interesting. My generation do not expect our mothers to be on-call babysitters. What DO I think of this? How do our parents enrich our lives now?

My youngest son Max seemed to hit the nail on the head recently. He told his Grandmother that he didn’t have any jammies. Now this was not strictly true, he has plenty of perfectly fine jammies. But what he really meant was “I need special, different jammies handmade by my Grandmother.” These are jammies that no-one else has. They are funky and when he wears them, he knows that he is loved especially.

The special love that my kids get from their grandparents has helped to make them what they are. An interest in plants leads to gardening expeditions and botany lessons. Grandparent “playing” on the potters wheel? The grandchildren join in the game. Special, favourite food? Grandma will cook it best. We all need to feel special and adored, and grandparents fill that role nicely, while parents to do the “dirty work” of discipline, carrots and bedtime. With his parents, a child’s needs are met. With his grandparents, his life is enriched.

What about me? I am enriched by my parents’ education and experience. If Mum has read a great book or spoken to a great person, I can get the rundown, the information. My parents (and in-laws) notice things about the kids that I might not, and give valuable advice. Even if I don’t agree, the discussion is good. I’m lucky. My dealings with my Elders have been almost entirely positive. I need the experiences of my Elders in a rapidly changing world. I need to be reminded what it was like to raise a child thirty years ago, when TV only existed for a few hours a day. I need the family gossip and history. I need a thousand cups of tea and information.

The Elders are also the ones who glue the family together. Who is in charge of Christmas Lunch? Certainly not me, though I file the recipes away (recipes for stuffing, seating and calm) for the day when I am an Elder myself.

Looking online, I find HUNDREDS of excellent websites by Elders, for Elders, wondering what their position is in this new world. Many of those sites have discussion forums where young people flock to ask questions or find a listening ear. We young people seem to know intuitively that the Elders have the answers. Or if not the answers, then the right questions. I suspect that the New Elders are an evolving phenomenon. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next generation. I wonder what sociologists think? The New Elders need a place in the Evolution of Man, and I think they’ve found it.


  1. Thank you! I'm looking forward to what other writers and commenters have to say.

  2. I guess I qualify - though none of my sons have blessed me with Grandkids yet. At age 64, though, I'm beginning to understand the advantage of age and experience, and I'm beginning to realize I have much to share with those with, perhaps, less experience. And, as long as they'll let me ....

  3. Truly. You share with your writing and photography as well.


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