As a Social Worker, member of the Rotary E-Club of One World, family therapist and avid grandmother I have become interested in family stories across the generations, how grandparents and grandchildren relate to each other across the globe, what they value and learn from one another, what 21st. Grandparenting looks like. Today's International Women's Day highlights that whilst there is still much to do to address issues of violence, inequity, poverty, freedom of speech and racism there are still many inspiring men and women working successfully to make a difference.
 
My hope is that my book will highlight what we SHARE rather than what DIVIDES us through featuring grandparents and their families from diverse backgrounds , circumstances, race and religion. Also contributors will have a wonderful opportunity to express and receive gratitude - the value of which we learned so powerfully about, in an older meeting written by our President Dawn O'Bar!      
 
 
I will now share some of my research about grandparenting with you and conclude with excerpts from several grandparents and their families.
 
The role of grandparenting is changing. 'Grandparents Plus ' a UK charity championing the needs of grandparents and the wider family states that the Childcare provided by UK grandparents has been valued at £7.3 billion. Of major concern globally is that the majority of Grandparents raising their grandchildren whilst highly committed to this role, may well be disadvantaged.  Scommenga (2012) reported 5.4 Million US children are raised in this way. There is increasing need for better  support and services such as legal and financial aid, parenting and respite for these grandparents as well as integrated community health and welfare services for children and older persons.
 
Like other significant relationships, grandparenting can bring much joy as well as heartache and longing. Grandparents may lose contact with their grandchildren through divorce, have limited time with them through long distance or suffer the pain of a grandchild's  chronic illness or disability, experience of bullying or even death.
 


Shi Quin by her 8 yr old granddaughter

I would now like to share the story of Feng Shi Quin (a delightful 79 yrs. old grandmother originally from China) and her inter-generational family with whom she has been living for twelve years in Australia. On arriving I was greeted by her son who showed me the flourishing vegetable garden which his mother was growing in the front yard. His mother speaks Mandarin so her son and elder twelve year old granddaughter interpreted for us. Shi Quin was one of ten children born in a rural province whose parents were farmers. Most of her siblings did not survive due to illness and starvation. They lived in a simple hut with no running water. Feng was rubbing her stomach when reminiscing about her childhood and describing her hunger and how on some occasions she dug up dirt and ate some blue minerals when there was no food. (I plan to ask a specialist in Asian History to make sense of this.) It was not until the next day that I realised she was describing her experience of surviving a terrible famine and my subsequent research confirmed this and the death toll of millions as a result. She has no memory of her own grandparents as they died young. This lady lived through the Chinese Revolution which she felt resulted in better access to food. We were sipping Chinese tea together as she shared her story and her two granddaughters aged 8 and 12 were drawing pictures of her and writing about her at my request. The theme of resilience was to continue when she and her son explained how she came to Australia to care for her first granddaughter when she was born and then a year later returned to China with her so that her parents could work. When her granddaughter turned two, her parents retrieved her from China and then returned her to her grandparents a year later.
 
I was grappling to imagine how everyone managed these separations and reunions.
Her son explained ' When she was happy we were sad and when we were happy she was sad.' Shi Quin  then added 'she is the love of my life.' and her face beamed.
 
She then left the room and generously offered me some chocolates and I felt she was glad to share her story. She concluded by explaining that she came to live there permanently eight years ago and highlighted the importance of education for her granddaughters. Meantime they showed her their drawings of her which she loved and shared their concern about a time when she was ill in hospital. Interestingly when asked what she might like for' a surprise' they replied 'seeds for her garden.' Her son then proudly announced that his Mum had won an Award for volunteering in the community garden. She generously shared her lifelong skills this way.
 
After taking a photo ( see above) with everyone's consent, she and I spontaneously  hugged and I said to her via her son that she was so full of love. I then left with tears of gratitude for meeting this family and hearing their story across the generations.
 
Would you like to contribute your story?
I am looking for :
  • grandparents who have fought for civil rights or overcome adversity
  • long distance grandparents & their grandchildren
  • a grandparent who helped deliver his / her grandchild or attended the birth
  • grandparents who are supporting a  grandchild with a disability or chronic illness
  • grandparents doing it tough now or in the past  who have been helped by their grandchild/ ren
  • grandparents of IVF grand babies
  • grandparents with twin or triplet grandchildren
  • grandparents who are leading the way in Rotary or their community or career
If so I would love to hear from you on calink@bigpond.net.au.
 
 
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