Today’s society is extremely flexible and covers a wide range of lifestyles and family values. Compared to previous decades, grandparenthood today has an increasingly higher variety of options in terms of age, social status and style of parenting. Following a certain grandparenthood style is an important characteristic of value system that a person has.
My maternal parents originated from rural area and got traditional upbringing, which eventually affected their grandparenthood style. Although their values reflected in elements of authoritative parenting style when raising children, it was not the case with grandparenthood style. According to Neugarten and Weinstein’s classification, my maternal grandparents followed fun-seeking style when communicating with me and my sister, especially when we were before ten years of age. This involved playing games and spending time together, particularly during summer season when they took their grandchildren for staying in their house during summer holidays at school. It would be fair to say that they took the role of surrogate parents during the periods of time, when I lived with them during holidays in all seasons. This included all types of care and financing, although my parents continued being involved. Overall, their fun-seeking style of grandparenthood was combined with the reservoir of family wisdom style. Thus, my grandmother took an active part in teaching me reading before I went to school, she was reading poems and fairy tales to me, which helped to develop my memory. Besides, once in a while, both of my grandparents accompanied me to nursery school and extra classes that I had as hobbies. In my early childhood, I also remember being taken away on a journey by one or both grandparents, which means that responsibility for upbringing was temporarily shifted to them. According to Cherlin and Furstenberg classification, my maternal grandparents belonged to compassionate grandparents because our relationship was affectionate and quite informal.
Speaking about the philosophical dimension that my maternal grandparents assigned to their role, several of them should be mentioned. Centrality was a key concept, as my grandparents treated the activities of being with their grandchildren as the most important and meaningful one. When they retired, this meaning was even more reinforced because the bulk of their time and interest was devoted to grandchildren. It is also worth mentioning that while the amount of time spent with the grandparents decreased when becoming older, their values of grandparenting and dominating motivation was transformed. Such meanings as immortality and the valued elder role became more significant, which can be justified by several facts. First of all, while most parents are relatively young, when a grandchild is born, they tend more to choose fun-seeking style, while it is too early for them to think about being old and leaving heritage to future generation. When the grandchildren grow and grandparents become older, they start thinking about being a valued elder so that not to stay alone at the end of their lives. By being resource to their grandchildren, they consciously or unconsciously hope that they will be able to resort to their grandchildren in future and receive support from them. Besides, seeing their mission in the context of immortality is another meaning that is more likely to be assigned to grandparenthood in older ages when people tend to think more about dying and living trace as part of the clan.
Speaking about my paternal grandparents, their styles were different from the ones followed by my maternal grandparents. The main reason was the fact of their living quite far away in a different part of the country, which prevented me from developing a close relationship with them. So, because of the fact that we did not see each other often from early years, no informal relationship developed between us. It would be true to say that my paternal grandparents followed more formal and remote style of dealing with me as their grandchild. However, it is worth saying that it was accounted not so much by their personal values as by the life circumstances that took us apart from the very beginning. Thus, having other grandchildren living in their town, they chose more informal and fun-seeking style while having an opportunity to communicate with them on a daily basis. So, no centrality or valued elder categories could work successfully in this case because of low level of availability and personal involvement. However, it would be true to say that despite being distant, grandparenthood had an important meaning for them as seen through the lens of immortality. This meaning was quite important and they tried to contribute by reminding that they are present in their grandchildren’s life. This type of connection positioned family as a clan that is a system to which continuing life is important.
Speaking of my own vision of grandparenthood, I believe that grandparents need to take an active part in their grandchildren’s lives but should not take the role of parents. The reason for this lies in the idea that parent-child communication is vitally important for healthy functioning of a family as a unit, while shifting parent function to grandparents breaks this integrity. In this case parents may not develop the type of involvement and responsibility, which is necessary to grow personally and be successful in helping children solve their challenges of growing up. In their turn, grandparents’ role is rather supportive, and they can be really helpful in taking the burden of their children who need some privacy too. So, whenever a grandparent is involved, he or she makes atmosphere in the family more comfortable for all its members. They can use their life experience in raising children without imposing their own values but being flexible and compassionate. As for me, I see grandparenthood in its deferent categories. I am a proponent of an informal style that deals with having fun with children and educating them. Although it is difficult to imagine myself a grandparent right now, I am sure that reinvolvement category would be quite meaningful to me. I believe that communication with little children helps grandparents remember who they are and refer them back to their own childhood. Thus it can affect the values significantly and result in rethinking the picture of life, lifestyle and behavior. Besides, the category of immortality would also be important for me because I see the role of the family as vital in keeping wisdom and identity from one generation to another.
Overall, I can say that my maternal and paternal grandparents had different styles and approaches for several reasons. Firstly, they had different background; secondly, my paternal parents had different location, which prevented them from frequent contacts with their grandchildren. My maternal parents chose informal fun-seeking style, while my paternal parents pertained from more distant and remote approach. However, the concept of immortality in clan belonging was significant for both my maternal and paternal grandparents. As for me, I believe that affection and friendly informal relationship is a key to success when grandparents choose to act in such a way. One may argue how much they should be involved but I believe that they should be close enough to be supportive but should not be involved too much, because they can take responsibility from parents in this case. Such categories as immortality and reinvolvement are the most meaningful for my future grandparenthood.