One of the best things about our retirement has been the time we spent with our two granddaughters. It would have been good to spend similar time with our two grandsons but they lived in Perth so it wasn’t just a short drive up the road. It all began when the eldest granddaughter, Saskia was a baby. We looked after her one day a week whilst her mother was working. That was the beginning of a long relationship. She is now 18.
I don’t get very enthusiastic about babies but once they start talking and moving around, the personality that is going to be with them for their lifetime starts to show. Even as young as 2 years old I saw some of my own characteristics start to appear. Some of them I would rather not see.
In a curious sort of way I was more observant of our grandchildren’s development than I was of our own children. With a young family there were so many day to day pressures that time just flew by without time to reflect. They grew up and almost before I noticed they were adults. Caring for grandchildren once or twice a week is a very different experience. You can enjoy the day entertaining them and they you. You then hand them back to their parents and get on with your life. Much more relaxed than being a parent.
For a small child grandparents are amazing. They are big and strong, they can do anything and as our granddaughter commented when she was about 5, they know everything. We are the object of tremendous admiration and great affection. They are growing up in our world and expect us to explain it all to them. Their naivety is charming and often amusing. I was taking my granddaughter and their dog for a short walk around the streets one day, as I turned left Saskia said “no I want to go the other way, there was a parrot dead on the nature strip yesterday and I want to see how it’s getting on”. I’m not sure what she expected to see but fortunately there it was still looking fresh and colorful. I don’t know if she went back to see it again next day.
The belief that grandparents know everything is a great help in the early years of school. If they want to know anything for their homework projects all they need to do is to ask Grandma or Grandad. We are a fount of knowledge, a walking encyclopedia but things change. The ‘maths’ doesn’t look like anything I did at school and I have to start referring them to their parents whose ‘maths’ is more up to date. Maths has changed enormously. No more log tables, sine tables or slide rules, they wouldn’t know what they are, just pull out the scientific calculator and it’s all you need. The big change came with computers and the mobile phone. Initially my basic computer skills were enough to fix their problems but young children learn fast and they soon left me behind. They soak up information like a sponge and as they mature they become very capable of processing it. We are now living in their world and are hanging on to be part of it.
We bought our first computer around 1980. It was a BBC and used a tape recorder for its memory and the TV for a screen. I was trying to make sense of it when our 15 year old eldest son stepped in. The schools were teaching binary maths at that time and in no time at all he was able to adapt to program the computer. We still have the BBC computer somewhere. I kept it as a piece of history whilst I have dumped several computers since. As I grow even older I realise that we are becoming a piece of history ourselves.
Now I ask my granddaughters how to set up my mobile phone. Our youngest granddaughter, Katja, two years younger than her sister is the expert, probably because she spends half her life plugged into it. She is fascinated by technology and I’m sure she knows more than I do about photography and cameras which is something I’ve always been interested in. Not only are they leaving us behind on technology but they’ve grown taller, first taller than my wife and now taller than me and both of us are over average height.
We can still contribute something. Experience is invaluable and we have plenty of that, and very occasionally they make use of it. We can also drive and have cars so a lift to a sports event or a pick up from school is still in demand. That will be gone once driving tests are back on the availability list in Victoria. It might not be long before we will be asking them to pick us up and take us somewhere because the powers that be have decided we are too old to drive.
The depressing thing about grown up grandchildren is that it is a reminder of just how old we have become but it’s a joy to see them growing up and wonderful that they are healthy and smart. As one of my more humorous friends put it ‘the nice thing about having smart grandchildren is that it shows the power of genetics’. . It will be fascinating to see what they do with all their talents in future.
With luck we might just be around long enough.
f you would like to hear more from Harold and the Marcus Today team, sign up for a 14-day free trial to our newsletter HERE