Monday, July 25, 2011

We're parent-full parents who can relate to parentless parents

It's been awhile since I commented and based a post on a recent article I read. Reading the article "Parentless Parents: What's The Impact of the Grandparent Gap?" made me think about our own situation. Parentless parents are basically individuals who have lost one or more of their parents and then have children of their own. It could also be that when their children are very young, one or more of their parents pass away. When the children grow up, they are growing up without knowing much about their grandparents.

It not just about missing out on the support like free babysitting but also things like family history and stories your children's grandparents would tell them, and being able to share your child's milestones with your parents. If you have a close relationship with your parents and one of them passes away before you had a child or when your child is young, all this would affect you a lot more. The article also mentions that there are parallels between a parentless parent and that of a parent who has a disconnected or estranged relationship with their parents.

In many ways I feel like we can relate to the parentless parents. Ironically, both my parents and both of Jean-Louis' parents are alive and well. Tristan has four grandparents but no close relationship with any of them. Part of the reason is because they don't live near us. My parents live closest to us since they are in Victoria so Tristan sees them maybe once a month or two. Jean-Louis' parents are in France and Tristan visited them once. In terms of time spent with his grandparents, I would say that Tristan has seen his Victoria grandparents a bit more than his French grandparents.

Parenting has actually made me feel very alone. Sure my parents came over to see us when we were in the hospital when Tristan was born and then even stayed with us for two days. That was tremendous help but I often think that Jean-Louis and I are alone. We are somewhat socially awkward and have no close friends to turn to for help. Neither of us have close relationships with our parents. However Jean-Louis is an only child and does talk with his parents on the phone every week. Some times Jean-Louis shares milestones with his mom but at a later time and only if he remembers. In my family, we don't do that unless my mom or dad asks. In fact, I don't even know anything about my mom's parents. I was too young to remember them when we moved to Canada and then both of them died before I met them. My mom didn't really tell me stories about them. Their only existence to me is their picture in my parent's living room wall. It's sad really. We are a disconnected emotionally distant family. I think we are different from most families.

I think it's important that Tristan knows about all his grandparents. He definitely knows who they are but he hasn't been left alone with them much to really know them. He video skypes with his grandparents from France once every two weeks or so. He speaks on the phone or sees his Victoria grandparents for coffee about once a month or two. You know how certain children get super excited to see their grandparents and then they become shatter-boxes and tells them everything? Well, with Tristan some times we have to ask him to say hello or something because he would just look at the video screen and wave. He's also quite shy. Like me I guess.

Jean-Louis is extremely close to his grandparents from his mom's side. They practically raised him. When we asked his mom how she potty trained him, she had no idea. She just said that his grandmother did it :) I have fond memories of my grandparents from my dad's side. Grandparents are awesome and we want Tristan to discover that awesomeness. It's not only about Tristan though. We want his grandparents to get to know him well too, bond and develop relationships with him. I think the next best thing to being a parent is being a grandparent. Some may even say that being a grandparent is better :) We try to involve his grandparents when we can so that Tristan can spend more time with them. We invited my parents along on a vacation with us to Mexico last year and that was great for both of them. Next year when we visit France again, we're hoping to convince Jean-Louis' parents to go on a small vacation with us too.


Crunchy Carpets said...

My husband lost his dad when our son was three and then lost his mom when the kids were still tiny. Adam has memories of them, but Caity doesn't really.
The loss isn't just the loss of that connection to the past for the kids, but for my husband to have to share the past of the family with and the future together.
And to talk parenting and their memories of parenting.
My mom lives in the same townhouse complex as us so she is a daily fixture in our kids lives and for that we are grateful.
I do feel for all these families with distance between them.
I grew up in Scotland with a Canadian grandfather who I never got close to. I spent more time with him in my teen years...but the gap was there.

harriet glynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
harriet glynn said...

Wow what a great post Susan. We adopted so the lore and stories of grandparenting might not seem as relevant to Theo; I'm not sure. That said, we all, including Theo have an amazing and deep relationship with my husband's dad (Lolo) who we see all the time. My parents are in Ontario so that one isn't a close.

My own relationship with my grandparents on my Dad's side was pivotal, and I have so many fond memories of Sunday visits, parties and holidays.

I think what you are doing is great. Sometimes a grandchild can bring an family closer together.

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