Intergenerational Connections

My parents think they are pretty funny. They are very generous with their time, and both my brother and I count on them to care for our kids. Truth be told, we count on them caring for us just as much. But every winter, they go away for two months – and here’s the kicker – they won’t tell us where they go. Years ago at some point, my brother or I must have joked that we’d send the grandchildren down to Florida to stay with them. So they refuse to give details of their whereabouts. They skype and they send cards, but they don’t give us a landline number or address, and this amuses them to no end. (Pretty funny Mom and Dad.)

I understand that they need a break from their kids and grandchildren. When they are around, they pick up the kids right after school and give them their favorite snacks, home-made. They give my husband (known as “Poor Kevin” to all those sympathetic to being married to a travelling wife) a break when I travel, which means there’s hope that he might still love me when I return. My kids think that this is how life should be and give us helpful advice: “You should make muffins like Nana,” or “Pa walks the dog three times per day,” or “You should wake us up like Nana does.” (She never raises her voice and gently rubs their face with a warm facecloth – can you believe it?). The fact is, they are very generous, and we miss them in our day-to-day lives.

So I find myself seeking out examples of schools that have programs for grandparents. Most schools do some sort of Grandparents Day that often includes a lunch together. But here are a few other examples:

–       A Junior School that has grandparents – blood relatives or friends – read to the class once per week. If the grandparents are not close by, they read the story by skype. I met a girl whose grandmother skyped to the class from India.

–       A School Garden that is tended by the children in partnership with the grandparents.

–       A school-wide project where an older “Woman of Courage” is partnered with a class for one year, and they collaboratively design a project based on her passions. In one case, Sheila, a retired social worker, had the grade three children visit an unfamiliar neighborhood and take photos, share their stories and photos, and read a series of novels together with their parents.

CAIS schools are often thinking about creating intergenerational opportunities and meaningful connections. It doesn’t have to be grandparents. One thing that K – 12 schools can do that no public school can do is to connect older and younger kids together. Most recently, at Southridge, two grade 12 boys told me that one of their favorite experiences is to sit at assembly with their kindergarten buddies. At Meadowridge, when the older buddies graduate, the younger buddies write to them at university. The reciprocal benefits of multi-generations are deep, and I just hope that more schools find ways to access these relationships.

So with less than two weeks to go until my parents return, the count-down begins and soon we will have three generations around the table again laughing and talking.  Makes me feel really fortunate.  In a recent email, my Mom wrote that she missed Ginny, our dog. Like I said, my parents think they are pretty funny.  But we wouldn’t have them any other way, and, if they tell me where they stay in Florida, I might just tell them that.

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