Casey Tusa Summey graciously shares her experience bridging the gap between her son, Wade, and his great-grandparents. Read along as she tells their story and provides wonderful tips on how to connect with family from all generations regardless of age!
Working with Home Instead, an in home/residential community care company, I meet new people almost everyday. Originally, one of my go-to ice breakers was “How many grandkids do you have?”. More often than not, the response always included the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These proud responses from so many seniors reminds me of the time my own son had with his great-grandparents. It is special to meet people who have experienced meeting 4 generations; it isa a marvelous and unique miracle for a person to live well enough to see three tiers higher on their own family tree. But sometimes those relationships need fostering because of the physical and developmental gaps between family members so far apart in age. My own family intentionally tried to overcome the 78 year age gap between my granny and my son, Wade.
My mom and I always tried to make my grandparents’ house a desirable destination. We did that in a number of ways, but primarily, I reserved their house for all manner of celebrations and activities. For instance, Wade always had a traditional birthday with family and his little friends. Then we would have an “extra birthday” at my grandparent’s apartment. We started celebrating half birthdays exclusively at my grandparents’ when Wade turned three and a half. Seasonal activities like painting Easter eggs and decorating pumpkins were also reserved for their space. If something was messy or artsy, we would do it on Granny’s back picnic table. If it was food related, we would all huddle up in her little kitchenette. But whatever the occasion, Wade was always eager to be a part of such special events. Granny got to enjoy his delight in turning everyday activities into joyous, memorable moments.
There were a few very special toys and books that we kept at Wade’s great-grandparent’s apartment too. Granny always referred to herself as “the great Berenstain bear detective” because she could literally find anything, anywhere, in no time at all. So, all of the Berenstain Bear books stayed at her house to read to Wade. Wade loved the books and he loved that she had special books to read to him.
As mobility and breathing became an issue for my grandmother, we would steer Wade toward games that Granny could sit and play with him. His favorite game was a hot potato that had an internal timer and music. He could run all over her apartment but he always had to throw it back to her in her arm chair. That game let him run around and be a kid, while allowing her to be able to interact with him in a stationary manner. Other card games like Happy Salmon, Memory, and Apples to Apples were also crowd favorites.
When going on outings like the Mayborn Museum, the Cameron Park Zoo, and other family attractions, we would capitalize on the public wheelchairs to go to special places with Wade. Granny loved having her little guy in her lap, and he loved being ushered around.
The progression of my granny’s emphysema eventually required constant oxygen. Granny did an excellent job of helping Wade understand her need for the oxygen tubes. He would get to feel the air coming out of the tubes, she taught him how to flip the switch on her condenser, he would help her move her tubes around her apartment, and it quickly lost its stigma as Wade learned that oxygen was helpful for Granny and nothing to be scared of.
My grandparents are gone now, but I have a tremendous amount of gratitude that Wade knows, and remembers, them. My grandparents still had incredibly precious family time through their last years. I would be blessed to assist your family bridge the generations in any way I can.
More ideas for littles to do with or around their great-grandparents:
- Create a scavenger hunt/treasure hunt/egg hunt around the great-grands home.
- Celebrate the “minor holidays” (i.e. National Tell a Joke Day, National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, etc.)
- Have interactive videos that “only work on the great grands’ screen” (like Cosmic Kids Yoga or Super Simple Learning).
- Make the great grands “famous” for something; the best jokes, the best back scratches, the best snacks, etc.
- If you ever need to borrow a wheelchair to engage with a loved one, please call the Home Instead Waco office at 254-666-7300. We would be honored to help you make each day a special one.
Casey Tusa Summey
Home Instead, Waco