I remembered the day we spent exploring Juniata County together running through the Pomeroy Academia Bridge, playing in the creek, ordering anything she wanted at a restaurant for lunch, picking flowers, and teaching her how to say Tuscarora. A day of collecting precious memories while instilling an appreciation for our history.
As I sat and looked at that first day of school picture, I marveled at how grown-up she looked standing there outside her school with her curled hair and her perfect first-day-of-school tee shirt emblazoned with her name and various school supplies. Her ensemble was complete with a denim skirt, pink and silver glittery shoes and of course, a backpack that was half her size. The whole world, it seemed, was stretched out before her, a new chapter, full of possibilities and opportunities.
I looked at her smile, and found myself smiling too, but was surprised to realize that my smile was gradually fading. My thoughts turned more solemn, and I felt a wave of near panic. She is such a sweet, sensitive girl, so full of excitement and wonder. Will she be, o.k.? Will the other students be kind? Will she fit in? Will she form close friendships? Will she bond with her teacher? We have all heard the stories and seen the statistics and understand that bullying, difficulty with friendships, and academic pressures can be a lot for a child to manage no matter what age. This is when the realization hit that my work as a Nana is far from over. In fact, it just might be kicking into an even higher gear.
Parents today are under a lot of pressure. In most households, both parents are holding down jobs, taking care of household duties, running to all the extracurricular activities, all while trying to look out for the mental, emotional, and physical needs of their children and themselves. That is a tall order! Parents live their lives, often with their proverbial gas tanks on empty craving nothing more than some down time. It certainly sounds like they could use some help! That is where we as relatives, friends, and the community at large can fit in. We can supply some of the help that is needed to ensure our families are supported.
It is a proven fact that when grandparents are present children have fewer emotional and behavioral issues. Those connections have even been linked to a decrease in depression for both the child and the grandparents, a win, win! It also teaches the child to love and respect everyone, including those who are older. We also have more free time to teach them hobbies and skills. I remember teaching Saylor how to test her skillet to see if it is hot enough to make pancakes (we made them quite often in every Disney character imaginable) by flicking water into skillet to see if it sizzles. This may seem like a very small lesson, but I assure you, Saylor will always remember that Nana was the one who taught her how to check to see if her pan is hot.
Perhaps you are thinking, I am not a parent or a grandparent, where do I fit in? Anyone can be a good influence on our children. A blood connection doesn’t make you more qualified, your love and commitment to improve the life of a child do. It is a big, wonderful, magnificent, confusing, and sometimes difficult world out there. I invite you to join me as I strive to assist our next generation through it. “If the family were a boat, it would be a canoe that makes no progress unless everyone paddles.” Letty Cottin Pogrebin
P.S. I followed up with Saylor and she loved school, her teacher, and already made new friendships.
Rhonda S. Kelley, Executive Director, Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce