Priceless Gifts

By Rick Fullerton | Bio

My last blog anticipated the arrival of a new grandchild, and now I am pleased to announce that Angus Fullerton Beauregard arrived on March 14th—much to the delight of family and friends! As grandparents, it seems appropriate to us that he shares Einstein’s birthday.

Births, like graduations and marriages, are major milestones of life. These events trigger other feelings and reflections, in addition to the natural joy of celebration. For example, newborns bring concerns for the health of the baby and the mother. Will the nursing go well? Will the infant have colic and be fussy? How will the new parents handle the uncertainties and demands of 24/7 parenthood? And in the quiet times when the baby sleeps, reflections turn to the awesome responsibility of caring for this infant, this totally vulnerable and wonderful gift of a child.

For those of us who have more life experience, another layer of thoughts emerge. As grandparents, great aunts or uncles, and close family friends, we can offer a longer-term perspective that may elude the new parents. While we may not be able to get instant answers from the Internet, we can offer reassurance based on having ‘been there’. Our life experience is a valuable asset when it comes to these ‘parenting’ conversations.

Another role that many seniors treasure is that of the storyteller—those who share the family history and cultural context with the next generations. Today, such stories are often illustrated with photograph albums and souvenirs of people and places. These help stimulate interest and ground the stories in ways that are meaningful for little ones. For example, it means a lot more to talk about great great grandma’s wedding if you can show off her wedding dress and a ring she wore. However, gifted storytellers can always enchant their young listeners—with or without real-life mementoes.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can offer as we interact with the younger generations is our unflinching love and support. Of course we offered that to our children when we were younger and so anxious to be ‘good parents’ and role models, and we can extend that to our grandchildren. Yet it is more than that. It seems that it may be possible to be more relaxed and confident as we age, which in turns means we can be ourselves without having to try too hard. We no longer need to prove anything—to ourselves or others—so we can just ‘be’ with others. We can love the parents and the grandchildren just as they are. And we can offer the wisdom we have acquired when it’s requested, or when it seems appropriate to do so.

The thing about being a family elder is that you can be responsible for and love everyone while acknowledging that it is the parents and the next generation who get to choose what they will accept from what we offer and what they will do with it. By finding ways to share who we are (rather than telling others what we know), we can offer our own priceless gifts to those who add so much to our lives and to the world.