The Pandemic Was a Gift to this Grandpa
In the early days of the pandemic, four of Marc Joseph’s grandchildren, along with their parents, came from Austin and Orlando to live with him and his wife, Cathy, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Two other grandchildren living nearby were frequent visitors to the house for meals and sleepovers with their cousins.
Many families coalesced to ride out the pandemic together and counteract the stillness that fell over the world. Joseph’s six joyful weeks with his grandkids, ranging in age from 1 to 8, changed how he looks at his personal relationships and the responsibilities of being a grandparent.
“As you grow older, you grow wiser,” he said. “I wish I was there more often for my kids – every concert they were in, every ballgame they played. I was traveling around the world. I wasn’t always home,” said the former entrepreneur. “If I can spend more time with my grandkids, then maybe it’s making up for what I didn’t give my kids.”
The time with his grandchildren is so precious that Gramps, as the children call him, found a way to keep the connection alive when the children went back home. Every evening, he and Cathy made up stories about dinosaurs roaming their house in order to share them with the grandkids on Facetime. One night, the dinosaurs camped out at the refrigerator eating blueberries. Another night they were playing the piano.
“We became part of the routine,” Joseph said. “The kids took baths and read books and then they’d say, ‘What are the dinosaurs doing tonight?’ That gave us a chance to keep in communication with them.”
Joseph’s focus on family isn’t at all unusual. One research study found that women don’t make major changes in their more developed personal lives after retiring. But men do. After years of focusing on their careers, older men become more dependent on family and greatly expand their social networks.
All that love from grandchildren – without having to worry about managing their day-to-day activities – takes the edge off of getting older. This may be especially true during COVID, which has isolated retirees from the social interaction crucial to maintaining their mental and physical health.
Joseph believes that he, by nurturing his relationship with the grandkids, is also fulfilling a greater responsibility to them and to society. By reading books to the children, they learn to listen, to focus on something other than their electronic devices, and to develop an attention span. He teaches them “not what to think but how to think.”
Grandparents are also role models. Joseph has written a children’s book that encourages children to share. The book, “I Don’t Want to Turn 3”, is based on a suggestion by one granddaughter, Olivia, who decided it would be a good idea to give some toys to homeless children.
Joseph argues that more attention from grandparents not only supports busy parents but also softens some of the negative effects of the pandemic’s stress and isolation on children.
“This pandemic has a major effect on this whole generation growing up,” Joseph said. “We have only so much time to spend with these kids and mold them and influence them.”
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