My daughter, mother of my two grandsons, is an early childhood educator. Each school year, my daughter hosts a Grandparents Day celebration and encourages her students to invite a grandparent (or two) to attend school with them. One highlight of Grandparents Day is when the students "interview" their grandparents on what school was like for them at their grandchild’s age. The anecdotes shared by the grandparents, my daughter says, never fail to dazzle and often downright befuddle the rapt grandchildren.
There’s no need to wait until Grandparents Day to amaze and entertain – as well as enlighten and educate – grandchildren with stories of not only your past, but of their past, too. Children of all ages are fascinated by family history. They relish glimpses of who Grandma and Grandpa were before they became, well, Grandma and Grandpa. The same is true of stories highlighting Mom and Dad as youngsters. Most of all, though, children never, ever tire of tales featuring them as the main character.
Sharing family history through stories provides children a positive connection to the generations before them, vivid anecdotes to cherish and recall about those they love, those who love them in return. Though each family has unique experiences worth passing along, here are six stories we all have to share:
How you met your partner in grandparenting. This story serves as the genesis of your family, the reason for all stories that follow, making it the natural spot to begin sharing family history. Were you and your spouse school chums? Was it love at first sight? What made you nervous, made you laugh, made you know it was meant to be? Grandchildren will appreciate not only your words but the nostalgic gleam in your eye as you recall young love.
The day the grandchild’s parent was born. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the grandchild’s Mommy or Daddy in the baby carriage. Tell your grandchild all about the glorious day her parent arrived in the world – minus any frightening tales of being in labor, of course. Considering Mommy or Daddy as a wrinkled and wailing yet oh-so adorable infant will surely make any child smile.
The day the grandchild was born. Talk about adorable! This is the day that matters more than any other to a child. Sure, they likely heard the story from Mom’s and Dad’s perspective, but what about Grandma’s or Grandpa’s? Were you in the room when the grandchild entered the world? Or were you miles away, the phone close by your side as you anxiously awaited news that would forever rock your world? Did you laugh or cry with joy? And how did that first cuddle with your newborn grandbaby feel?
School days, school ways. Once a child begins kindergarten all the way up through the college years, school makes up the bulk of his experiences. Share your own experiences related to teachers, classmates, beloved (and detested) subjects, extracurricular activities, and more. Why was your favorite teacher your favorite? Did you walk to school or ride a bus? And as lunchtime continues to be a favorite part of the school day, what was the midday meal like for you? Some things were likely very different back in your school days, others very much the same.
Your first job and your favorite job. Early work experiences provide far more than money for movie tickets or coveted clothing parents can’t provide. First jobs help teach responsibility, new skills, a sense of purpose, an understanding of the world outside our homes and, more often than not, provide some of the first non-family role models in a young adult’s life. Grandchildren who will soon seek employment – from babysitting and lawn-mowing jobs to post-college careers – will especially relate to stories from Grandma or Grandpa on how they navigated the business world, for better and for worse.
Your proudest moments. Pride in oneself is a powerful and positive tool, and there’s no easier way to encourage that in children than by sharing anecdotes of pride-filled moments from your past. Are your proudest moments tied to creative pursuits or related to service to your family, your community, your country? Perhaps it was a moment of realizing your personal power when resisting peer pressure, accepting responsibility, overcoming a challenge? Sharing such moments leads a child to consider similar moments she should – or could – be proud of.
Reading books with little ones make for treasured story times. Next time your grandchild requests a story, though, share a personal tale from the heart instead of from a book. Such family narratives engage a grandchild far beyond just bedtime; they entertain and enlighten your grandchild for a lifetime.
Lisa Carpenter is a mother, grandmother and writer of the blog Grandma's Briefs. You can read more of her musings at Grandmasbriefs.com
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