Copenhagen International School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandparents on their role in family life

We had the pleasure of interviewing Ritch and Joan Eich and Nancy Charamella during their recent visits to Copenhagen. Here are their views on what it takes to maintain family ties.

Do you agree that grandparents who live far away from their grandchildren can maintain a close relationship through frequent visits and by phone calls, Skyping, and emailing between visits?

Ritch and Joan:
Joan and I believe family comes first and therefore a maximal effort must be made to use every form of communication and, of course, visit whenever possible. We think it is vital to use forms and modes of communication grandchildren use regularly; it goes without saying that this often requires new learning by grandparents. We have four grandchildren, two here and two on the east coast in the USA. and we try to ensure all the cousins speak with one another, too. Joan often remarks that we cannot take anything for granted and these relationships must be worked at. Joan’s mother adopted computer skills early and often emailed our two sons and her other grandchildren. Each grandchild had a jar labeled “hugs and kisses” and filled with Hershey’s chocolates. The jars were refilled on request so the children knew they were loved.

Nancy:
Yes! The technology is key due to the visual aspect.

What do you think the most important role of a grandparent is?

Ritch and Joan:
We believe it is giving unconditional love, and reinforcing behavioural guidelines established by the children’s parents. Ritch was given a coffee mug by Taylor Sun and Carter, which says “a grandpa is like a father but with fewer rules”, that he uses frequently. Being involved in the lives of your grandchildren is so rewarding, inspiring as they grow and develop and great fun! Parents and grandparents – like teachers, principals, and all those who work in schools – influence children every day when they interact with them. Both Joan and Ritch’s mothers were teachers, Joan’s dad was an architect, and Ritch’s dad was a teacher and later a principal. They were active volunteers and engaged in their communities, frequently working with children. Peter Drucker once said “be a teacher” – not necessarily in a classroom setting but he meant “develop” people, help them grow by providing challenging opportunities where they can succeed and fail and learn from both. This is a long winded way of saying be involved, make yourselves available, make sacrifices for your grandchildren as you did for your children, be selfless and enjoy the ride!

Nancy:
Supporting the parents and providing unconditional love.

What are the advantages of being a grandparent?

Ritch and Joan:
There are a myriad of advantages inherent in being a grandparent; they include: having your faith in the future restored every day; thinking “younger” than if you had little to no contact with your grandchildren and their friends; seeing the world through their eyes and with their hope, idealism, honesty and optimism about the future; having the chance to be a mentor and being able to positively enhance their dreams and ambitions. With Taylor Sun and Carter, we are truly blessed because their parents, Geoff and Nancy, invite us to events important to their family; they are incredibly generous and thoughtful, and they periodically ask for our opinions. We are extremely fortunate because they include us in their lives and our grandchildren’s. As one grows older, it is sometimes too easy to become pessimistic and have your views about much in the world become negative. Grandchildren have brightened our lives considerably; they make us laugh, and they elevate our spirits. Taylor Sun and Carter are always very respectful but they will sometimes politely question us or challenge our thinking which is wonderful!

Nancy:
All the joy and none of the responsibilities!

Grandparents are known as the family historians, how do you share stories of the past with your grandchildren?

Ritch and Joan:
Whether we are with our grandchildren or not, we share stories and draw parallels from our two sons’ experiences for our grandchildren. A recent example was inspired by the Copenhagen International School (CIS) swim coach who greeted us (our son Geoff, Carter our grandson and Joan and myself) while Taylor Sun was changing into her swimsuit. He came over and in his very good natured way was kidding Carter about being a supportive brother by being up at 5am so Taylor Sun could swim that morning. Joan reminded Carter than Uncle Teddy (Geoff’s younger brother) frequently had to get up at 5 am so we could be at Yost Arena at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor so Geoff could play ice hockey. I think the moral to this brief story is that sharing stories comes naturally when you are with grandchildren. Joan is the best storyteller as her recall skills are much better than mine. Our stories are also regularly shared through photos, emails and more. In our families, Joan’s older sister and my older brother are the chief historians.

Nancy:
Sharing stories about your grandchild’s parents is an interesting way for them to learn about their history.

If you were to give advice to the future generation of grandparents, what would that be?

Ritch and Joan:
We are reminded of the Oscar Wilde quote: “the only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.” Being involved in the lives of our grandchildren continues to bring us great joy. This is due in large part to their parents who make it possible through their kindness, encouragement, thoughtfulness and generosity – and to the “kiddos” themselves for their love and interest in us.

Nancy:
Give as much support as you can, and see your grandchildren as often as possible.

Writer: CIS – www.cis.dk