I have many memories of time spent with my grandparents growing up.

I remember going to my paternal grandparent’s house on Saturday mornings, eating fresh blueberries from their garden, and playing with paper dolls. My grandmother would bring me Molasses cookies, and when my parents left a chore list, she always did them for me.

My maternal grandparents cooked a macaroni and meatball dinner for my entire extended family every Sunday, and I loved gathering at their house with my cousins. Every Christmas, their blue room would hold what seemed like thousands of presents as we all crammed in to share in the joy of unwrapping together.  And, let’s not forget the time my grandfather picked me up from elementary school when I was hurt, and wrapped my little head with an entire roll of gauze until my mom could get there to take me for stitches.

Today, I hold these memories dear to my heart as my father’s parents passed away years ago, my maternal grandmother has advancing dementia, and my grandfather is exhausted caring for her. I hold them dear because I now realize how much influence these secondary caregivers had in my life.  And, I simply never worried about the finality of it all, until now. I never realized that as time moved on, I would become the sole-keeper of these memories … these reminders of how loved I was by so many amazing people.

My boys are blessed with four amazing grandparents, each of whom has an active role in their lives. Whether it is babysitting, sleepovers with their cousins, or fun day visits, it seems that my kids always have a grandparent around. And, my children have beautiful relationships with each of them as a result.  Grandparents are truly special because they are an extension of our selves in many ways … of our beliefs … of our love.  When our kids are doing some quirky unexplainable thing, or even something beautiful, grandparents can remind us that we too did those things.

Whether it is advancing child-rearing ages, the increase in households with two working parents, the fear of leaving our precious children with strangers, the cost of childcare, or a combination thereof, the role of some grandparents has evolved over time. Some of these special people that our children are blessed to call “Mimi”, or “Nana”, or “Poppy”, or “Papa”, or “Nonnie”, or “Grandma”, or “Grandpa”, or “Mema” or whatever cute—and sometimes not so cute (as is the case with my kid’s poor “Old Nonnie”)—name they might affectionately refer to them as, have taken on far more involved roles in their lives.

And my father is a prime example of this.

When my kids were babies, my father was their primary childcare. Eventually, they each moved on to part time day care, and my dad became their afternoon childcare.

Even now, with both of them in full-day programs, my husband and I work different hours that often happen to overlap at critical times of day in terms of childcare. Most mornings, my dad drops my oldest son off at school, and most afternoons, he picks both boys up from their respective schools.  He is the last one to wish them well for the day, and the first one to hear all about the good’s, the bad’s, and the ugly’s of their days.  My dad is the first person to tell them that the artwork that they made at school is beautiful, and the one who knows first what each boy ate for lunch, who has homework, and who forgot their sweatshirt in the classroom (and he often takes them back to get it before it is even a worry in my mind).  When my husband and I have obligations at other times of day, my father will get them dressed, bring them to their activities, give them their baths, read stories to them, and put them to bed.

There is no denying how helpful all of my kids’ grandparents are to my family. In fact, I am not really sure what we would do without them. I suppose somehow we would manage, but it would be a definite challenge.  Knowing that my children are well-cared for by people who love them and want to be present when I cannot be, makes every second that I spend away from my kids that much easier.  And, let us not forget their seemingly infinite patience with my children when I am all tapped out, sometimes even after they have been with them for hours and I am just walking through the door.

But the thing that means the most to me about the grandparents’ presence in my boys’ lives is the special bond that they all have. There is something about asking my four year-old how he would like to have his hair cut, and having him answer that he wants it “to go to the side … and white … like Papa’s” that just makes my heart melt.  Or, when my oldest tells me that while his Nonnie is a great grandmother, she would not be a good mother to him because she “spoils me too much.”  Or when my youngest cries for his Meme to put an icepack on his boo-boo’s because he likes the way she takes care of him.  Or, when my oldest says he cannot wait for me to leave so that Poppy can give him lots of junk food and cookies.

I have so many wonderful memories of my parents growing up. And, just when I thought that I could not be any more grateful for them, I became a mother, and they became grandparents.  I did not know my husband’s parents growing up, but I have similar sentiments about them as well.

I am incredibly thankful for grandparents, and the role they each play in the lives of my children.

“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life.  And, most importantly, cookies.” – Rudy Giuliani

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