The origins of this national U.S. holiday started in 1969 with an unsuccessful attempt by a 9-year-old boy, who wrote a letter to President Richard Nixon. From there, most of the credit goes to West Virginia’s Marian McQuade -- a champion for the value of grandparents and older adults -- who had plenty of experience as a grandmother. When she passed away in 2008, she had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
Back in 1970, Marian began promoting the idea of a holiday for grandparents and found success first in her home state of West Virginia, where grandparents were honored in 1973. After that, it took her six more years of tireless dedication to persuade leaders in Washington, D.C., to bring the entire nation on board. On Sept. 10, 1979, President Jimmy Carter issued a proclamation that read:
“Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us. Whether they are our own or surrogate grandparents who fill some of the gaps in our mobile society, our senior generation also provides our society a link to our national heritage and traditions.”
My 11-year old son is very fortunate to have six grandparents. They also live nearby, which makes it very special for him to be in a unique position to get to know them and be able to spend time with them. Through this, he is able to learn more about our family history and, of course, be spoiled a little bit.
Every year at my son’s school, they celebrate Grandparents Day by inviting them to spend the day observing and interacting with him in the classroom. It’s a very special day for my son and for his grandparents. It gives him the opportunity to share with them all the exciting things he does every day.
Last year, they played math games and read stories then mapped hometowns and shared artworks. The Head of School remarked that some decided to take a somewhat different approach to their time. They sat and spoke. The children asked about their upbringing and the mistakes they’ve made. They asked them to describe themselves in elementary school and talk about how they’ve changed since. They asked for anecdotes about parenting and how they felt the first time they held their grandchild.
And they did it in a variety of ways. Some recorded the audio on rocking chairs for a collaborative podcast and others interviewed their guests in the classroom while writing responses on questionnaires. It was an entirely different way to experience school. And for many in attendance, it was some of the most significant, meaningful time they’ve spent with their grandchildren.
So, this year, honor your grandparents in whatever way you can. If you spend time with them, you can learn a lot. The gift of time has given them a unique perspective on life, and this is a great opportunity to connect with them and learn from their history, which is also part of your history.