Last week my wife and I were invited to “Grandparents’ Day” at the small primary school three of our grandchildren attend in Sydney. We have previously been to similar functions at the college of our other two grandsons, back home, in Melbourne.
As we are currently staying with my wife’s daughter and family in Sydney, this gave us the opportunity for us to attend this celebration with them for the first time.
The occasion celebrated and acknowledged the positive roles that many grandparents (and special friends) play in the lives of their grandchildren.
Lots of nice things were said about grandparents by the School Principal and by some of the kids representing each grade.
The formal side of the occasion was very well-organized and rehearsed – designed to spread a feeling of warm fuzzies and appreciation to the grandparents who attended.
However, at the end of the formal ceremony, I was left with feelings of disquiet.
It concluded with a recording of Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World”, with all the kids following the words of the song with orchestrated body language and gestures. Yes, a bit schmaltzy.
The song capped off the reasons for my discomfort.
The picture painted of all grandparents by the Principal and the students was that we were all wonderful, caring, giving, wise and self-sacrificing people, who would do anything for our grandchildren.
This is obviously untrue.
I know plenty of grandparents who choose to have little involvement with their grandchildren, let alone give much of themselves to them, or anyone else for that matter.
And I know of so many more, who are OK grandparents (me included), but who fall far short of the treacly, glorified image projected about grandparents at the school ceremony.
As for this being a Wonderful World, I regret to say that it is just not true.
No doubt, many of the kids, from their own personal observations and experiences, would be aware of the foibles and fallibilities of their grandparents, as well as of the glaring imperfections of the world we live in.
So what was the event really about? The maintenance of a “Brady Bunch” myth about lovable Grandma and Grandpa with hearts of gold? The fantasy that life is just a bowl of cherries and the world we live in is la la land ?
My guess is that we grandparents got what we wanted that day. We heard things we wanted to believe about ourselves, but knew they were far from the truth. We wanted to hear that we were caring, loving, giving people, without flaws, even though we knew it was fantasy.
We wanted to forget about our imperfections, our self-centredness, our fears and our guilt for a little while and pretend what was said about us was really true.
Perhaps, we even received a glimpse of the persons we have the potential to be, not the persons we believe we have become?
Perhaps some of us received a wake-up call to do better, to reach beyond our perceived limitations and aspire to be the persons lavishly praised at Grandparents’
Perhaps, if we do, the world would become a much better place?
Perhaps, it’s never too late to change our minds, change our lives and change the world?