Tuesday 20 March 2018

Dr Ciara Kelly on the special relationship between grandparents and their grandkids: 'The generation above and below me seemed to be in cahoots'

Ciara Kelly
Ciara Kelly
Grandparents just love and enjoy their grandchildren, because nothing else matters.

Ciara Kelly

Inever had a whole lot to do with my grandparents growing up. My Mum's parents were both dead before I was born and my Dad's parents lived in Dublin, which was quite far from Greystones back in the 1970s, when neither they nor my Mum drove. I would only ever really see them at large family gatherings when their seven children and shedloads of grandchildren were all milling round, so forming a close bond never happened.

So I was unprepared for what happened between my own parents and my children when they came along. The unbridled joy that my parents so obviously felt about their arrival. And what's more, a love that seemed every bit as strong if not stronger than that which they felt for us, their own children, but was somehow untainted by all the worry I remembered as a child.

They loved my children but not how they loved me. When I said I was concerned that one of mine wasn't eating right or wasn't studying in school or wasn't behaving in a certain way. Instead of agreeing with me - which was what I was expecting - and would have been in keeping with my general upbringing, they sided … with my children! It took quite a bit of getting used to.

"She's grand" they would say about the child who didn't eat vegetables and then would slip her a digestive biscuit behind my back! "What do teachers know?" They would laugh about the one in trouble in school. Despite years of berating me for my bad reports. When my eldest at two was a bit noisy at his cousin's christening, my father - an unbelievably devout Catholic - gave him a lollipop in the church and then brought him outside to play with the statues! Who were these people? These were not my parents.

My children too had a special place ring-fenced in their hearts for their grandparents. When I would tell them in completely logical detail, backed up by hard facts, why my mother was driving me mad, they would laugh and say, "Ah! She's lovely" as if I hadn't just explained why she was infuriating.

In fact, I would go so far as to say the generation above and below me seemed, if anything, to be in cahoots with each other and in actual fact were ganging up on me. Leaving me left out, like a whiny, middle child whom no one listens to. Which would have been really annoying - if it hadn't been so lovely.

One of the nicest things I saw in the relationship between my children and their grandparents was the kindness. My kids understand my Mum is demented. They know she says madly funny things. And they laugh their heads off. But never at her. Always with her. They love her completely and delight in her eccentricity. And I will never forget the day - the last day she ever left the nursing home - my 15-year-old son helping her out into the car when she became frightened and wanted to go home. "Don't worry, Julie, I have you, I won't let you fall." She looked up at his determined, reassuring face with complete trust. "I know you won't," she said, suddenly calm.

I still feel like crying for some reason thinking about it.

I think when we were young, our parents, like ourselves with our own kids, were under so much pressure that they were mostly stumbling from one thing to the next. They loved us but they didn't always have time to show it. And what's more they were usually so worried about us messing up - they weren't sure that they even should. But as grandparents they'd already seen it all before and realised that there was no point sweating the small stuff. Just love and enjoy these kids because nothing much else matters.

I now can't wait for my own grandkids to arrive - to extract my revenge.


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