Once upon a time, almost every young child was lucky enough to spend some time each day sitting in a lap, listening to a story, or walking in the park. Chances are good that the person who owned the lap or told the story or walked hand-in-hand with the child was Grandma or Grandpa.
It used to be that most children grew up with at least one grandparent living in the house or neighborhood. These family pillars gave us what we needed to hear and feel. They had the time to be patient with us, the distance to love us without conditions, the experience to guide us, the wisdom to teach us, and the importance to buffer us from the judgment of our parents. Grandparents inspired the earliest gifts of laughter, connectedness, loyalty, hope, nostalgia, and faith. Their lives connected us to our storied past and our wondrous future. Together with our parents, they were often the first champions of our greatness and value to the world. They were also all too often the first loved ones to die and to help us discover that love endures, even continues to grow, beyond life itself.
Today, families must work harder to maintain relationships with grandparents who may live far away or far removed from the nest they helped build. Young and old alike have less time to themselves and, ironically, spend more time by themselves than in previous generations. Most of us rush through life faster than ever, sharing ideas and emotions at the speed of light without seeing the face or hearing the sound of another's acceptance, pleasure, sympathy, concern, or doubt. Digital communication is replacing personal dialogue.
If we are to reverse the American epidemic of stress — induced disease and disability, we must restore the centrality of relationships in our lives. The capacity to care, to form relationships, and to create community starts with family and friends. Do yourself and your children the deepest favor — keep them in close touch with their grandparents and grandfriends. Children who are loved or mentored by an older person are more likely to be healthy, succeed in school, and achieve in life. Every child deserves to live happily ever after.