A Grandparent’s Legacy

All grandparents leave a legacy to their grandchildren, whether they intend to or not. It may be an inheritance, an heirloom or a box full of old letters and curling snapshots. It may be a legacy of presence or absence, predictably silly jokes or yearly fishing expeditions. Or it may be a legacy of being loved as babies and avoided as teenagers. Or vice versa.

My wife and I have chosen three things for our legacy to our grandchildren. Happily, none of them involve a trust fund.

Memories come from repetition, maintaining traditions as simple as stopping for pancakes partway through a morning bike ride; flying across the country together and changing planes at Newark Airport at 3:00 in the morning; having different colored linens for each visiting kid, or taking a grandchild, one at a time, to an elegant restaurant in a fancy hotel where they have to sit and converse with the grownups and order off a menu bigger than they are.

Confidence comes from trying new things on their own. Every year our grandchildren (age 6 or older) live with us for a piece of the summer, without their parents and away from their friends. We consciously expose them to experiences that build confidence in this new environment. Every evening we all sit around the table and each tells the group about the most interesting part of the day. Discussing their experiences, inferences and points of view helps them to learn how to tell a story well; waiting their turn teaches them patience; listening to the others clues them in to what other people think is noteworthy, funny, embarrassing, poignant, etc. Along the way the kids learn poise and graciousness that comes from being treated as, and expected to act as, an adult in social situations.

Ability comes from spending time with voracious learners, not just being entertained by doting elders.   Whether it’s at home with us or at day camp, we pick active experiences that build skills or foster creativity: drawing, theatre and circus techniques and performance, scuba diving and marine biology. The girls can watch videos and stay glued to their smart phones at home. With us, they live their lives as unplugged and curious as possible.

So far we’ve had three grandchildren visit as a group. Next year we’ll have five. Eventually we want all seven. Regardless of the number of grandkids we host, I want all of them to look back at their time with us as an idyllic experience, worthy of reminiscence. I do know the oldest girls look forward to July, and beginning in August they start to plan what the next summer’s adventures will be.

Needless to say, I’m getting a lot of satisfaction from the whole thing. And what would please me most is if my sons carry on the tradition when my grandchildren become parents.

10 responses to “A Grandparent’s Legacy”

  1. Ron Reagan says:

    Enjoyable and informative and thoughtful as always.

    George, I enjoy your writings.


  2. Judy Chermak says:

    Legacy, indeed. A living, breathing, priceless gift of loving, creative grandparents. May all grandchildren be so fortunate!
    Congratulations to all!

    • George Schofield says:

      Thank you, Judy. Life is a complex package as you know from personal experience. Kids, working, marriage, volunteer obligations, and health priorities just for openers. I appreciate your response.

  3. Lisa Rubinstein says:

    I’m very inspired by the summer traditions you have created with your grandchildren. I’m looking forward to the time when our grandsons get just a little older, so we can incorporate some of those experiences into their lives. Thanks for being such a great role model for them and for us!

    • George Schofield says:

      Thanks, Lisa. When your posse of grandsons is a bit older you will find it a great experience for you and Bruce to have them in your own beautiful environment and contribute to what can interest them. You will do this. I’m convinced!

  4. I love how intentionally you grandparent! Thanks for the great ideas-I am going to save this article.

    • George Schofield says:

      Thanks, Debbie. And pass it on to others. I’m very interested in hearing about examples that expand on what I propose and am doing with my grand kids.

  5. Lisa says:

    This column is superb advice, expressed with heart and mind traveling together. I like the organizing categories — memories, confidence, ability — and the examples within each. Great advice that I will take with me into my own ‘grandparenting’ journey. Thank you, George!

    • George Schofield says:

      Thank you, Lisa. I suspect I’m just a bit further down the grandparent path than you are. I’d like to learn from your experience, too, so keep me posted please!

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