Well, almost! According to Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, grandmothers are important to human evolution and development. To a large degree, they are what makes us human. Quoting author Penelope Farmer, she writes: “What everyone needs in the (new) millennium is access to the Internet and a grandmother.” (See Hrdy, Mothers and Others, chapter 8).
Kristen Hawkes, an anthropologist at the University of Utah, has made similar findings. She writes: “Grandmothering was the initial step toward making us who we are.”
Grandmothers also help us to live longer. How? Commenting on the evolution of the human race, Hawkes and Hrdy note that, “grandmothers can help collect food and feed children before they are able to feed themselves, enabling mothers to have more children. Without grandmothers present, if a mother gives birth and already has a two-year-old child, the odds of that child surviving are much lower, because unlike other primates, humans aren’t able to feed and take care of themselves immediately after weaning. The mother must devote her time and attention to the new infant at the expense of the older child. But grandmothers can solve this problem by acting as supplementary caregivers.” (See “New Evidence That Grandmothers Were Crucial for Human Evolution” by Joseph Stromberg, smithsonian.com, October, 23, 2012.)*
Today grandmothers — and grandfathers too — may not be needed at every meal time, although they often do help with meals as well. But, more importantly, they are often there to provide support to young families by babysitting, ferrying grandkids to hockey and ballgames, to dance and piano lessons, and a host of other activities. In our church at Siloam, it is frequently the grandparents who bring the children to worship and Sunday School or to Vacation Bible School in the summertime.
You don’t need to be the best grandparent ever! Just being there for the grandchildren is what counts. Hugs and cuddles, reading to them, engaging them in conversation, going for walks together, and providing a shoulder to cry on, all make a positive difference in the lives of grandchildren. They also contribute to greater happiness and well-being for the grandparents. I suspect the same same is true for great-aunts and uncles who take an active interest in their nieces’ and nephews’ offspring.
That’s why I am so excited to share that we will have over twenty people at our first Grand-parenting Workshop at Siloam this coming Saturday morning, April 29th! Will report back on how things go, but if you are in the area, please feel free to join us at Siloam United Church, 1240 Fanshawe Park Road East, London ON, from (9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Together we can make a positive difference in the lives of our young people!