My great aunt, born in 1898, had some remarkable stories that, as a young college student, made me think, “How cool is that?” She told me about the first time she rode in a car and about her initial experience listening to a radio. She expressed how she felt when she first saw an airplane and how she loved riding to her school dances on a sleigh over freshly-fallen snow. On one occasion she reported the excitement she experienced over seeing Teddy Roosevelt campaigning for president. She commented, “For being a ‘bull moose’ of a man, he sure had a high, squeaky voice.”
It occurred to me that she may have had a similar conversation about the past with her own grandmother at some point when she was young. When I inquired about this possibility, my great aunt replied, “Oh, yes. I remember my grandmother telling me where she was when she heard that Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated.” That blew me away. I was getting a second-hand account of something that had happened 130 years previously! I was getting rooted in history, and connected to significant people and significant events through someone I knew.
Were you alive on the day President Kennedy was shot? Where were you when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon? Do you have vivid memories of what you were doing when you first heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001? Your grandchildren probably don’t know much about these events. If you learn to tell these stories from a living perspective, your grandchildren will listen. You will help them be rooted in history.
Your history, or at least parts of it, can be fascinating to young minds. You just need to know which areas to focus on. You have an ancestry, a history, a past, and when you share it with your grandchildren with enthusiasm, pride, and honesty, your story becomes part of their story.
Some of the best narratives you can relay to your grandchildren are about their mom and dad – one of which is your own child. Those stories can help your grandchildren learn to honor their father and mother because you have said something honorable about them. You might even find that your relationship with your own child improves!
Mike Shaughnessy lives in Lansing, Michigan and is the founder of Grandly. His book, The Strategic Grandparent, will be published by the Word Among Us Press in May 2020.
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