Grandmothers: Ours, and Moana’s, guiding light

Grandma Love 2 image

Not too long ago, I saw what is now my favorite Disney movie. The guiding light in the movie, Moana, is her grandmother, and that is one of the main reasons I loved the movie. As someone who was fortunate enough to grow up with wonderful grandmothers, this twist in the story spoke to me.  

Growing up, I had a bubbe who was tall and hilarious, and when she hugged you, it felt like everything in the world was going to be great. My other grandmother, who we call Row-Row, is short and more serious, and holds your hands the whole time you are with her because she hates it when they are cold.  

I was also fortunate, even if it was for too short of a time, to inherit another bubbe from my husband, who in every perfect way embodied everything a bubbe should be. She wanted your stomach to be full and for you to be blissfully happy.  

The thing about grandmothers is, no matter what form they come in, they are always healthy for you to be around. A grandmother views your potential as limitless, compared to our parents who give us boundaries in order to help us succeed. According to Prof. Ann Buchanan, in a study done by the University of Oxford, grandmothers play a big part in nurturing young children to grow up feeling safe.

Growing up in a Jewish household, grandparents often play a major role in the upbringing of children. They help instill traditions, and Shabbat dinners and holiday meals are made better with our grandparents telling us fun stories.

There are also many health benefits to a grandparent-grandchild relationship. A study done by Boston College in June 2016 found that grandparents and grandchildren that spend more time together are less likely to be depressed. 

Moana needed her grandmother's help in order to get over her fear of the water so she could reach her destiny. Moana's own parents were scared of letting her go too far deep into the water, but her grandmother knew that Moana had the ability to overcome this fear and would succeed.  

Our grandparents can help us face some of our greatest fears. For many of us in our 30s, our grandparents started off with very little. Their dreams were to make a better life for their children, so they can they provide a wonderful life for their  grandchildren and so on and so forth. They worked hard, faced their fears, and conquered adversity. Their successes, as well as failures, made them ready to face many challenges and those lessons were passed on to next generation.   

According to Michelle Borba, EdD, a Campbell, California-based educational psychologist and author of Building Moral Intelligence, grandparents provide unconditional love, which helps children face their fears. 

Nowadays, it is so nice to see so many grandparents with their grandchildren. A study done by the University of Oxford said that grandchildren who spend time with their grandparents often have better social skills and behave better.  

Spending time with grandchildren can help keep grandparents young and active. Another study done by The Women's Health Aging Project of Australia, suggests that grandmothers (the study was only done on grandmothers) who babysit one day a week are less likely to get Alzheimer's disease later in life. Grandparents and grandchildren keep each other mentally and physically healthy. 

As our grandparents age, it gets emotionally harder to be around them. They sometimes look sick, they forget, they repeat, and some of them are even shells of what we remember. However, as grandchildren we cannot forget that they were our original guiding lights.  

Dr. Karl Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell University and professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical college, wrote, "Research shows that as many as 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren feel their grandparents influenced their values and behaviors. Grandparents transmit to their grandchildren the values and norms of social order."  

So, as they get older it is our job to make them feel safe and limitless. We need to make them realize that their walker, or wheelchair, can be a cool accessory. Tell them that they look beautiful in their new sweat outfit and that you love the art project they had been working on all week.  

I am very grateful to have two grandparents who are still living and have been married for 69 years. I often ask them for their advice and sometimes just sit with them for an hour or so just to talk about food. I also feel blessed to have had time with two other grandparents (bubbes), who still guide me throughout life. Even though I lost one of them when I was quite young, like Moana, I can still hear her when I need her the most.  

Dana Fine, of Highland Park, is a board-certified acupuncturist and herbal medicine practitioner. 

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