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Published August 10 2010

Parenting Perspectives: A really Grand summer

Not long ago, a wise woman in my life – a grandmother – told me, “It’s all about relationships.”

Her words stayed with me all summer as I observed life through the adventures of our five children.

For the whole of June and July, our five children took turns experiencing the abundant life in a Minnesota lake town.

They started by dipping their toes into the lake and then moving to full-body immersion, coloring pools and lake surfaces with their laughter, feeling the lake breeze across their faces at sunset, dozing to the sounds of a pontoon motor.

They went fishing, learned the fine art of baiting and casting off, the thrill of pulling in something fresh from the water by their own hands. The cycle came full circle with the sputtering sounds of frying fish, which they consumed with a post-dinner delicacy of fried fish eggs. (Grandpa bribed them with crisp dollar bills.)

By day, they played with their cousins in the sand, digging a hole to China and filling the sand box with the lake until futility reigned. They went bowling, to a family reunion hundreds of miles away and on a girls-only shopping excursion with Grandma.

At night, they learned how to fold their own clothes and then sat on the deck out back, slurping down popsicles while a rock-garden fountain soothed their tired souls. They routinely ended the evening snuggled in bed watching videos and eating fresh-popped popcorn.

Our middle child experienced an extra; her first plane ride, the awe-inspiring feeling of being lifted from the earth and seeing the world from the clouds’ point of view before landing safely on a strip of coastal land. She traveled by ferry to an island, watched a tugboat push a vessel across the ocean, journeyed through the mountains, rode an elevator to the top of the Space Needle, and snacked at an “Alice in Wonderland”-themed tea house.

Remarkably, the kids’ father and I were nowhere near any of these adventures, all of them having been orchestrated by and experienced with the children’s grandparents.

Despite lack of a family vacation, we all enjoyed a summer of fun and beauty due to our parents’ giving hearts.

Two major thought processes seem to exist in our culture regarding grandparenthood. One, immortalized on a bumper sticker, says, “I’m spending my children’s inheritance.” The other was expressed recently by a friend who is a grandmother; she told me, “It’s all about relationships,” explaining why she and her husband had not moved someplace warm, preferring to live near grandchildren instead.

I’m not advocating that grandparents sacrifice all their hard-earned retirement money for their offspring. But we’ve witnessed the possibility of a compromise, somewhere between the bumper sticker slogan and martyrdom. Gratefully, we have awesome models after which to pattern our own grandparenting when the time comes.

It really is all about relationships, as we’ve been privileged to learn all over again this summer.


Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo. To view pictures of the Salonen kids’ summertime adventures, visit her “Monday Mamas” blog posts at www.areavoices.com/peacegarden.