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Surrogate Grandparents – Making Multi-Generational Friends

In this podcast, we discuss the benefits of having grandchildren and how to reap some of those benefits even if you don’t have your own grandkids. One way to do that is surrogate grandparenting and just making friends with younger generations.

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Full Transcript of Podcast

Corinne 0:03
Hi, and welcome to our weekly podcast, modern grandparent team. This is where we discuss issues that grandparents must deal with in the changing world, for maintaining the best religion, relationships with both our children and grandchildren, to give you all kinds of ideas of what to do all year long, and hopefully making some memories that will last a lifetime. In this episode, we’re going to talk about surrogate grandparents or multi generational friendships.

Jim 0:32
So, yeah, what is a surrogate grandparent? Well, that’s any person that is a skip generation from the child, not the parents. But the grandparent age is usually about 45, to death, to death. Yeah, bring it up. And really, it’s about connecting with a family and a child to get that multi generational feel. Not everybody is fortunate enough to have family of multi generations living nearby, or maybe even still living. But there’s definite benefits for everybody involved.

Corinne 1:13
That’s exactly right. It’s been proven over and over again, that older generation, older people live longer. They live happier lives when they have grandchildren, or at least connections with people that are really young, really young. It used to be that we used to live together in the same household. And I think he’s starting to see a little bit more of that. Depending on the ethnicities, especially, I you see it lesson. People have you see it more on people of colors, homes than you do other places. And they do a lot of things, the grandparents are there for babysitting and supporting their children. But everybody needs that connection, that connection. Right? We’ve experienced that ourselves many, many times. The people that do you want to go over some of the people that might be interested in it? Oh, sure. So I mean, we can give you a huge list. Yeah. In our case,

Jim 2:22
what we have found and in personal experience and doing some research, great candidates, I guess, if you will, for this are families that don’t have local support for their, from their families, from their extended families. Like for instance, military, people who get stationed overseas, or a station far from home. And now they’re in a place where they don’t have that multi generational connection.

Corinne 2:49
In fact, they’re all alone. Because, yes, they have their people at work, but they don’t really have anyone else. They’re moving to a brand new area.

Jim 2:57
Yeah. And they will meet people, of course, and the kids will meet people have their own age. And the parents will meet people their own age. And that’s well and good. But we’re talking about getting more of a an age difference. So that you you have someone older, that you have in your life that you can turn to

Corinne 3:17
well, and we would have grandparents good for grandparents are good for giving unconditional love. They’re good for telling stories. They’re good for just being there to answer questions or help you out or without even saying anything just listening. Right? It’s somebody to support you.

Jim 3:34
Yeah. And we’re not really we’re not talking about being a surrogate grandparent to babysit. Now, though, that may be involved, certainly, maybe some of that decides choices. Yeah. But that’s not really what it’s necessarily about, you know, this is something that you can go over to their house, it’s a safe environment. You can make cookies, or you can go fishing, playing cards or games or just having a conversation on a regular basis. Okay, so families like military,

Corinne 4:02
I think, in our case, remember, Devin was when our daughter Devon, when she went off to college, we lived in Japan, right? And she didn’t have she went back to Alaska, where she had one friend who was going to the same university that she was going to because we were residents of Alaska. And her mother actually took them both up there and drop them off and bought her a coffee pot because she really didn’t have anyone to really support it. We were both working, it was pretty sad. Send our oldest off to the wild frontier, so to speak. Right? And so while she was there, I mean, the mom went home and she still had a friend but uh, but you know, they had different majors and they had different schedules. And even though they were able to hang out a lot, and they were friends, it was the same age and all the people there

Jim 4:55
right and she made friends and she had it wasn’t like she was assaulted. Terry Larson Hermite. But she did she she

Corinne 5:05
pretty quickly, she found a guy who invited her over to the house and his mother. And she just kept talking. And they ended up becoming so close. It was amazing. She kind of called her her second mother. Now she was she wasn’t a grandmother for she was a more like a mother figure. But is that cross generational friendship that she really needed? She needed someone to give her a little guidance. She needed someone just to listen to her when she was having a bad day. She needed someone to say, yeah, when you’re washing clothes, you know, you do separate the colors from the white this way, you know, whatever, whatever questions, so

Jim 5:47
we tell her, you know, you don’t always have to go out with your friends every night, if that’s what they’re doing. Stay home and study.

Corinne 5:54
Yeah. So she so she experienced it one generation, but she experienced it as a college grad and college students. So I think that’s when we could look at it, too.

Jim 6:04
Yeah. Well, and because we were overseas, of course, we were praying candidates for it. And once I children, when Steph and Erica move back to the states on their own, they were prime candidates for it as well. You know, there’s also people out there that don’t have grandparents, but their grandparents have passed, my grandparents passed at a very early age for me. So you don’t even really remember that. Exactly. Yeah. And that’s not uncommon. So there’s a lot of people there in that, in that position.

Corinne 6:34
Or, and there’s also, you know, sad or sad or issues that might have arisen as well. I mean, maybe there’s an estrangement or divorce or something that keeps you from your own family. But you still want that relationship. It surprises me that so many older people, and so many families are actually sort of yearning for this. There are agencies popping up around the United States in the world, in fact, that have supported this idea. And if you think about it yourself, I mean, I was a teacher for well over 20 years. And I thought that having those relationships with kids, you know, they kind of kept you going, they made you laugh. Every day. Everyone knows the importance of laughter. And now that we have our own grandchild, we get to experience that laughter. I really feel sorry for those people that don’t have it, because it is such an unconditional joy. It really is.

Jim 7:36
And I think it keeps you younger and keeps you youthful. experiencing that and seeing that around you. It’s very important.

Corinne 7:44
Well, Dr. Julie green of the executive director of raising children that work says that children with a warm, loving relationship with their grandparents are more likely to be resilient, have higher self esteem and cope better with the challenges of life? Well, what if they don’t have a grandparent to do that for them? So we just came up with this idea that we’re willing come up with it because many people have, but with the idea that it is really beneficial to perhaps seek out multi generation, multi generational relationships and friendships that support both the older person and the youngest person. We’ve had a few experiences ourselves when we moved over to when we first started having kids or babies were toddlers at the time. So this is a gay few years ago, right? And I was taking some classes in school, and I happen to talk to one of my professors, and he was a traveling professor. He was only there originally for one term. And then he extended he ended up extending and he taught for a full year there. This is that right mind and this was in German. Yeah. And, and he was in his 80s. And he had his wife there. Well, we we chatted and chatted. And we had told them that we went out on this hiking thing where we go walking every weekend. He says my wife and I love to hike. And so we invited them along, walks, marching, volts, marching is what it was called. And his wife was really kind of bored. I mean, when they were traveling, she was having fun. But when he was at work, you know, teaching or preparing for his lessons, which he was a professor, this takes up a lot of time. She was getting pretty bored. So she was so happy to come over and just play with the kids and they brought them gifts, not that we were we that wasn’t part of the plan. It wasn’t about gifts, it was just more about

Jim 9:46
and we’re not talking expensive things just like a little stuffed animal girls when they came over,

Corinne 9:52
and they would and we ended up having a relationship that lasted that whole year and the kids at that point in their lives. was when they didn’t really have any grandparents around them. I mean, it was kind of like their grandparents and it was just so nice to see them they snuggled up on the couch and read books, they laughed, they tickle them. They, I mean, they were little so they, you know, they colored with them. It was just it was really nice to

Jim 10:20
see was a mutual relationship. Absolutely, we’re all getting something out of it, you know, that sense of security, the children would get divided attention from another adult, and see another adult in a role model position.

Corinne 10:34
And for Jim and me, we were having discussions that we wouldn’t normally have, you know, when you’re at work, you have work discussions, when you’re raising kids, you have raising kids discussions, when you’re doing X thing in your life, a lot of your energy is spent just talking about that. But these two people came into our lives. And we talked about travel in their lives and things that were different.

Jim 10:57
And they had a chance to talk about their children and yeah, and share their experiences. So it was very, it was a very cool experience. And you know, it’s true. This was some time ago, it definitely before Facebook and FaceTime, and zoom, and Skype. And those online phone calls that you can make,

Corinne 11:19
which is so much easier for the digital grandparent right point. Right.

Jim 11:22
And, and phone calls themselves. Our landline, of course, was the only option. And that was prohibitively expensive at the time, especially if you’re young parents. So the only real contact that the children that our children had with their grandparents was through cards and mail letters, and a very occasional visit because it’s difficult for everybody to travel. And I guess where I’m going with this is yeah, it made sense at the time. And maybe you might be thinking that’s not so necessary now, because we’d have that, that digital connectivity, everyone’s connected in the cloud. But I would say that it is maybe even more important if that’s your only connection, that the child, even the parents do have someone in a different generation that they can be friends with, and they can share their lives with not saying to take time away from your extended family. Absolutely no, your your immediate family, but to just enrich your life, your daily life. So I think that’s really, really important.

Corinne 12:34
Well, I think bringing up technology is really important because and we’ve seen this, I think through the pandemic, where we’ve been very isolated. And I think people are yearning for person to person, you know, chats and talks of just a connection with someone you haven’t seen, or ever known, really, I mean, chatting up at the cash register in the grocery store will will certainly tell you how lonely people are. You know, I mean, sometimes you can’t get away from some people.

Jim 13:06
There’s only there was that time when app before I retired from the Air Force, and you had already gotten hired to work overseas in Germany, and you took the girls with you. And so I had about a year where I was there alone in California. Yeah, that’s exactly right. I would go into the bowling alley and just start talking to the ladies that were at the snack bar or whoever happened to be there. Because you’re lonely and you want to talk to somebody. And I think a lot of people are experiencing that. And so you just have to start those conversations.

Corinne 13:47
Yeah. And I think that we’ve also been surrogate grandparents, we didn’t really plan it that way. But we were living in Turkey. And we had a young couple come to work at the school that we were working at. And we showed them around and took them under our children. So it was just the two of them. But they got pregnant within the first year. And the next thing we know, here’s this little baby and we’ve got these friends now with a little baby. And there’s no other gun parents in the school. Most of the people were our age. There are a few younger people, but they were either single, or not interested in children, or old. I mean, there just really wasn’t a whole lot in between there wasn’t really any teachers that had young children. And so they were the first or the only and they were already our friends. So here we would see them on a you know, continual basis. Every week we’d have dinner we go places on the weekend, we traveled around Turkey with them, and we didn’t want to give that up and they were willing to do it with the baby. So here we are really with this baby all the time

Jim 14:59
she children were Back

Corinne 15:00
in the states already, that’s right. They weren’t having children were empty nesters, if you will. Oh, yeah, they weren’t anywhere near having children. I mean, this was years ago. And we Yeah, and we didn’t have kids. Now, we didn’t have grandkids for at least a decade. So we just became really close friends with them. And then this little baby, I mean, she would see us knock at the door, and she would dive into our homes, because she just knew us that well, if it was just the warmest feeling, we would laugh at her. We enjoy, you know, jumping, and I don’t know all the things you do with kids, but she was a baby and watching her just marveling at the things she was learning and how quickly she was learning to

Jim 15:42
realize at the time, but yeah, those are all grandparent feelings. Exactly.

Corinne 15:45
Exactly. So we definitely have fit that role. And we know how bad and how beneficial it was to us. When we didn’t have our even our kids around, you know, we were off wandering the world, which of course, we chose to do, and we’d love to do. But yeah, we deal with them as much as we could. And you know, but you aren’t giving up that bad. Those relationships. And when you do that, so it was so nice. So where do you find people that might be interested in, you know, having a surrogate grandparent or finding a family that they really want to have that elder connection for their children? Because let’s face it, you’re not just going to find a child. In this day and age, it’s, you know, it can be very dangerous to just say, Yeah, my kid really wants to have a grandpa. Well, no, I mean, of course, from the

Jim 16:45
other side, it can be it can be very challenging and dangerous as an older person to just start approaching children.

Corinne 16:54
Yeah, I mean, we’re not suggesting that by any stretch of the imagination. Because we want everyone to be safe. We want kids to be safe, want families to be safe. And we want of course you to be safe. But there are so many people, I mean, there’s people in your neighborhood, probably that might have moved in, that don’t have anybody, any family close this is we live in a very mobile society. We Jim and I are much more connected to the military side of things just because he retired from the Air Force, and I was in the Air Force. And we tend to live around Air Force bases. So here we are in north and in Washington, and there’s two bases right next to us. So that we know I mean, that’s like 12,000 people that are here, and maybe a few of them are back home where they started. But the majority of them, the vast majority of that 12,000 are going to be people who are not in their home state. And there, that’s a lot of people. Yeah. And so they could definitely use that connection.

Jim 17:59
And like in Turkey with our friends there. Turkey is a hard place to live when you first move there. You can’t just you can’t just roll up and do things the way you did in

Corinne 18:12
Atlanta, Georgia, like moving state to state right new country,

Jim 18:16
and there’s a lot of unknowns. So having someone that’s willing to help you navigate through those unknowns is really critical. But there are still those unknowns, even in your neighborhood where you live today. And we used to have these this thing called Welcome Wagon, where a new family would move in. And the Welcome Wagon would be like a local group that took turns, visiting new families, bringing them a plate of cookies that you cooked or just an addition yourself getting yourself offering to help explaining how things work in the neighborhood, that sort of thing. And there’s really no reason why you can’t still do that today. When you see a new family moving in, bake some cookies, or bring over a bouquet of flowers. And just knock on the door and say hi, introduce yourself. Let them know that they’re welcome in the neighborhood. Let them know where you live. And yeah, start a conversation

Corinne 19:22
but the neighborhood sound the only place I mean people go to church, the A where you can easily meet people. Maybe there’s common interests, like I’ve always been, I’m a lifelong Girl Scout so I can always go to girl scout meeting, not not with the girls, but the adult meetings where they are training and stuff and meet people. They’re there. Maybe it’s soccer and you meet people who are on the soccer field. Because you’ve always liked to play soccer. I mean, there’s just so many ways to meet people,

Jim 19:52
a lot of volunteer opportunities out there

Corinne 19:54
volunteering, and like we’ve mentioned before work is a really good place to do it school. Good place to do it. Or if you’re just really interested in it, maybe you ask a mutual friend, there is a Facebook group, that’s called surrogate grandparents. And you go on that group, and you can join it, and say that I’m a grandparent age, and I’m looking for a family in my neighborhood to, to, you know, go out and play in the park with, go out and go fishing with, I love to go, you know, whatever it is that you want to do. And then they try and match the families up with the circuit grandparents, I can put that link in the show notes. But there are in there more and more ways to find people. It’s really kind of sad that we have the technology that we do, because it makes you feel sometimes that you have more real connections that you do, right, even though they’re not in real life. Exactly. But gosh, going out to going out to coffee with someone or, or just playing with them at the playground. It’s just so much fun. Since we’ve been taking AJ to the playground, we have met so many people that we just chat up, and it is. It’s just different. I forgotten about I don’t know what it’s that

Jim 21:15
human connection? Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, now that I think about it, we have friends that are a generation ahead of us. Still, you know, today, we do because I really intentions of doing that. You just we gravitated to them and they gravitated to us, because I think it is such a natural thing. And we we don’t spend a lot of time with them. But we do get a chance to meet for dinners here and there.

Corinne 21:43
And we talk about things that we’re not normally talking about exactly. Because they’re a different group. There are different, they’re different from our everyday life.

Jim 21:50
So you get a different perspective. Yeah, on the world that way, which is another great benefit.

Corinne 21:58
So I mean, we have lots of examples of this. And most of it comes from just our life, as well, mainly because Jim and I have lived the majority of our married life, not near our families. In fact, well, we’re still not near our parents, we’re near our child, our daughter, because we moved here specifically in her request. But and so we’ve we’ve kind of always been missing that extra, that extra person to sort of just give us advice or bounce ideas off. It’s just a different perspective completely 10 years makes a big difference. And how people think I remember this, I had a friend who lived across the street, when my girls were young. And this was during my volts marching phase in Germany. And she was, I think she was 12 years older than me, she was like 42. And I was almost 13. And she had a 12 year old son and I had toddlers. And we would go walking, and we would just talk and talk and talk. And the thing she said just cracked me up. Because here I was this brash 20 Something, almost 30 something. And I just thought, you know, wow, what a difference in ages we are. But it was fun. I mean, I laughed, you know, kind of at what she said. But I really also took a lot of advice from her as well. I mean, it was, it was a really interesting relationship. And I looked forward to our time on the weekend when we would go hiking, because it was different. It was different than maybe a friend that I would pick for, you know, hanging out with having kids too. And we would just talk about, you know, diapers, and I don’t know, Sesame Street, right? Whatever.

Jim 23:55
Well, I can remember when I was when I was a kid. Growing up, like I said, with our grandparents. I don’t think there was anything intentional about it. But there was an older couple that lived in the neighborhood and eventually evolved into we would go over when he was out working in the yard, we’d help him cut his grass and pull weeds without any expectations. And his wife would bring out a picture of Kool Aid and some crackers or some grapes or something. And we just kind of sit around and shoot the breeze for a little while after working. And just having that you know that relationship. As a child, I remember that being really special.

Corinne 24:42
Well, in my family, I mean that was a military child as well. So that’s my whole life has revolved around the military. And we would go home every once in a while to get an advocate where my grandmother lived. And my she wasn’t my grandmother. She was my A uncle’s wife’s mother. And we called her grandma. But she, of course, wasn’t a grandma at all, to us by blood. But I remember going over to her house, and they were, they were straight from Italy. And I couldn’t even understand him. But she would, she would just

Unknown Speaker 25:20
more than me.

Corinne 25:24
But they would, they would, she would show me how to pluck chickens and do all kinds of strange things that my grandmother didn’t do, because she wasn’t that, you know, fire me or anything. So that was cool. I remember in third grade, I had a friend named Patty and she had a friend, I didn’t even know this woman. I can’t even remember her name at this point. But she made a point to go visit her all the time. She and so when I was visiting Connecticut, and she was my friend, I went with her. And she would invite us into this big white house with pain windows, and she would make us tea and we would sit down, and we would shoot the breeze for 20 or 30 minutes. And I don’t even remember what we talked about. But boy, did I feel grown up. I thought this is what being an adult is like, yes. You know, hopping from one house to the other having a cup of tea. It just made you feel good to have these older people who are interested in you. And she seemed, I mean, her face lit up when we came, I think it was good for her to I don’t know anything about her story. It wasn’t my mother’s frame. You know, I don’t I, I didn’t ever go to her house again. It was just that one summer I was visiting. But I’ll never forget that it was really important to me.

Jim 26:46
That’s pretty cool. Yeah, well, and like we said, both of our children have had the experience. Erica, when she moved to Washington State and she’s in this area now. Didn’t know anybody here. It’s not like we have family here. And she ended up gravitating towards an older woman at school, who became kind of a surrogate mom for her as well. And they would go do things that she’d want to do with their friends, they’d go in, and they’d bake things together, or do some artwork together. And really just have that chance, like we said, to talk to someone with a different perspective, in a different stage of life. So everybody benefits from it.

Corinne 27:32
So we’re not just saying that it should be the grandpa grand children relationship, even though that

Jim 27:38
is the title of the podcast? Well, it

Corinne 27:40
is the title of the podcast, because it is such an important relationship. And if you don’t have that naturally, then it would be nice to we have a lot of friends, we have a lot of friends who chose not to have children. Some are still single in their, you know, same ages, we are almost well, they’re probably in their 60s, they’re probably a little older than we are. And I mean, I’m not saying they’re not happy, but you know, they they live vicariously through their brothers and sisters, you might have children, and that’s a good way to do it to be a great banter

Jim 28:17
are great, right? That’s right.

Corinne 28:20
But they but they don’t have that relationship for themselves that they and I can’t imagine don’t want because it is such a fulfilling time to have a hello, just to laugh just to chat just to kind of marvel at what life is like for a little 10 year old nowadays versus when you were 10 years old, or, or, you know, as you were going through life. I don’t know.

Jim 28:48
It’s well, and with those, those older friends of ours that we have, that don’t think the intention was ever to be like a part of an extended family or anything. But they are still I mean, we’re still connected so well, and that they’re always curious about what’s happening with our children, and now with AJ. And they just love hearing those stories, like you said them

Corinne 29:10
may do. In fact, we had a couple come visit us just two weeks ago. And we’ve done them for you know, a couple of decades. And they chose not to have children. And that’s fine. Lots of people choose not to have children. And I’m not saying that they miss having children. But as Jim said, when they were coming over, they were like, is Erika coming over? Are they bringing the baby we really want to meet them right so we made sure that they were here because it was important for everyone and Erica to look at look at those friends as maybe not, you know she wasn’t as close to them as others but really looks up to them and really remembers them with fondness and really likes to talk to them. In this particular case, though Erica did really get along with with, with the woman because she taught her a lot about art. She’s an artist and Erica took lessons from her. And yeah, so it’s amazing how people make a difference in your life. I am always surprised when a younger person comes up to me and says to me, I’ve made a difference in their life. For example, when Jim and I were living in Alaska, we had a couple of foreign exchange students. One of them was from Norway, and she was 18. She, she was I think she turned 18 When she was with us, right? So it was her senior year. And she came to us and she lived with us for a couple of months. And I, you know, I mean, I remember it being a positive experience and really enjoying her but, but I really remember any conversation.

Jim 30:57
So it was kind of a last minute placement. Near the end of the year, her family had an issue come up where they had to leave. And so they needed to place her somewhere just for a short period. So it wasn’t, we’ve had exchange students for a whole year for a whole year, and actually became surrogate grandparents for their child now that she was just there for a short period. So we did build it a nice relationship.

Corinne 31:24
And we went to visit her in Norway. And so she ended up being a psychologist. And she says, It’s all because of you. And I said it is I’m looking at Jim like, what did I do? Oh, my grazie. Am I psycho? What is it? But now she’s like, No, my parents told me I shouldn’t be a psychologist, because there’s no jobs out there for a psychologist. But that’s what I really wanted to study. And I remember you telling me that you can still study to be a psychologist and try. But make sure you have a backup plan. And understand that it may not work because there aren’t a lot of jobs out there. Don’t be upset with your parents, because they’re trying to veer you in the right direction and steer you in the right direction. But that take the information into account and still go for your goal. Go for your dreams. And I mean, I don’t mean, I don’t necessarily remember this conversation, it definitely sounds like something I would tell somebody. But when she told me this, I kind of was a little bit in shock, that I had made that much of a difference in someone’s life that they ended up doing that for the rest of their life. So I thought that was pretty cool. And I think it’s very rewarding certainly was for me. But I don’t know, I just think that even though I love technology, and even though I think that digital grandparents have it so much better now. Distance, long distance grandparents have it so much better now, because of the technology. And there are ways to stay connected with your little ones, that that FaceTime with a younger generation, whether it’s one generation and more importantly, two generations. It’s just it’s, you can’t put any money. It’s priceless. And in fact, one of our favorite authors said if grandparents did not exist, children would surely invent them. And I think that that is such a, an important, you know, quote, because it is that important grandparents make so much difference in children’s lives. And who said that grandparents have to be blood relationships?

Jim 33:43
That’s right. All right. So I guess our advice is just get out there. Find places where you can go meet people. We mentioned them already in your neighborhood, at church, a common interest place where maybe scouts, or sports or at work if you’re still working, or through mutual friends, but just get out there, start a conversation, see where it goes, make a new friend. Don’t. Don’t look just to your own age group when you’re making friends. But look down a generation look up a generation and start that conversation with someone brand new. You can find yourself laughing and enjoying it. And who knows, maybe you’ll be kindred spirits. But it’s just harder and harder to find people with so much technology unless you get out there and make the effort.

Corinne 34:40
Exactly. I think making the effort is key. And like we said even if that’s just bringing someone to a play to cookies is a great start. It’s a great start. Well, thanks for joining us this week on modern grandparent team. For all things grandparents go to our website called grannies go digital and by all means sign up for our newsletter so that you can never miss out on a podcast or an article and hit subscribe to this podcast as well. Thanks and happy gram

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