Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Post 100 of This Blog Spans 120 Years

In celebration of Post 100, I present my recent column from the Home News Tribune titled, "Times have changed; so has Grand Parenting".

In it, I describe my grandfather (born 1887) and my grandson (born 2007) and everyone in between. That span = 120 years. I pose the question, has grand parenting changed all that much in the last few decades or is it my imagination? I'd love to hear your comments.

Are today's grandfathers so different from 50 years ago? How different am I from my grandfather Abe Singer (of blessed memory)? Are there genuine differences in our grand parenting styles or is it just a manifestation of my social work background?

I do believe there are very real differences. I will forgo references to a generational shift, the post-war mentality of parenting, and other generalizations for which I have no supporting data. This is entirely personal.

When I reflect on our visits to my grandparents' apartment on Meridian Avenue in Miami Beach, I think of their ground-floor corner unit as being very bright but stuffy. I don't remember the windows being open, nor do I remember the air conditioner being on — and this was Florida.

These scheduled visits to our grandparents felt like they were mostly for their benefit; they were not meant to be fun. Only later in life did I discover that Flamingo Park, which was literally across the street, had the best ball fields, tennis courts and public swimming pool on Miami Beach.

On each visit, we would describe our school work and music lessons. My grandmother prepared homemade snacks and showed us items that she created on her Singer sewing machine (no relation, unfortunately). My father then helped his parents with their bills or by fixing an appliance in their apartment.

We had fulfilled the obligation of visiting our grandparents. There was an air of formality, and we were not allowed to wear leisure clothes. One thing that we three brothers learned while observing the efforts of our father was how to honor one's parents. Our dad was a wonderful role model.

By contrast, here's what it's like when our 2-year-old grandson and our children visit us: It is magical and has the atmosphere of a nonstop celebration. Whether they come to us in New Jersey or we go to their home, we endeavor to have at least one specific fun-filled activity. It is not always relaxing, but it is always memorable.

There is nothing nicer than thoughts of these family outings when I am on my daily commute via NJ Transit. It is as much pure joy as it is a transcendent experience and the antithesis of what I remember as a child.

It is fortunate for my two brothers and me that we saw how over-the-top our parents were concerning our children, their grandchildren. If I have learned how to be an enthusiastic grandparent, it is from my parents, not from my grandparents.

One final point: I remember how my grandparents lived and some of the things that they did, but I have no recollection of what they thought about, and I wish I did. My grandparents experienced the Great Depression firsthand. It would be interesting to hear their perspective about the difficult economic times we are now experiencing. My grandfather served in World War I. What would he say about Iraq and Afghanistan? He lost a brother at a young age; how did that impact him emotionally?

Here's my recommendation to current and future grandparents: write down, videotape, or better yet e-mail your thoughts on life to your children and grandchildren. Enumerate your values and beliefs; describe life's curve balls and how you dealt with them. These will be a source of enormous wisdom for the future generations of your family.

While a close relationship to our grandparents is not as critical as the bond to our parents, the knowledge derived is invaluable. We should take the time to put pen to paper or to type a few digital paragraphs now and then and click "send'' to those individuals we care most about.

Be Counted columnist Dr. Alan Singer is a marriage therapist in Highland Park. Respond to this column via his Web site at


N. C. S. said...

Dr. Singer, do you think that the differences between the visits to grandparents can be attributed to the age of the grandchildren and grandparents?