By Donnell Suggs
The Caregivers is a unique series focused on the challenges and triumphs of caregiving. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between AARP and Word In Black.
Cynthia Robinson’s seven-year old grandson, Chase, rode his bike to her house one brisk Monday afternoon. The 73-year old grandmother of two – her granddaughter Kayla is 17 years old – lives two houses down the street from her daughter and son-in-law, the children’s parents. She sees them every day, if not every-other day. Robinson goes to her grandson’s soccer games on Saturday mornings, and to her grand-daughter’s room to talk about life multiple times per week. While she is in their lives every day, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that has not been the case for many grandparents who live far away from their grandchildren.
Robinson said being so involved in the lives of her grandchildren “feels great, particularly during times like these,” but she understands not every grandparent is blessed with that much access.
“We were dealing with many different issues, but we still had each other,” said Robinson, a Tampa native, who grew up living with her grandmother. “I was her first grandchild so we were very close.”
Robinson’s grandmother passed away when she was nine years old, but she vividly remembers the moments she watched her and her sister after school. Moments that are similar to the ones she is having with her own grandchildren today.
In AARP’s 2018 Grandparents Today National Survey, 81% of grandparents said they played an important role in their grandchildren’s lives. Robinson believes that is true and then some.
“It’s a different connection that kids have with their grandparents that is deeply rooted in family,” she said. “Kids feel more connected to the sense of their grandparents. They look to us for protection and love.”
The same could be said for Kayla and Chase’s grandfather, Carl Jones. Jones, 66, believes his relationship with his grandmother on his mother’s side was crucial to how he conducts himself as a grandfather.
“It was a close relationship that helped shape who I am today,” he said. “I believe the relationship with your grandchildren is key to establishing a foundation for your family.”
Like most children, the grandkids might not truly understand how fortunate they are to have their grandparents in their lives to this extent, but one day they will.
“Growing up with Abuela, she has always been there and it’s hard to imagine her not being there,” Kayla said. “It would be hard to live somewhere else; I have been so used to having her around.”
About being able to ride his bike to his grandmother’s house, Chase said, “It makes me happy because I like to spend time with her.”
Robinson cooks for the family from time to time, always hosts Thanksgiving dinner, and sends over remedies for summer colds and winter flus. Her daughter and son-in-law, both of whom have full-time careers, have reaped the benefits of having that parental back-up plan whenever and if ever they need one.
“There’s a sense of family, a sense of security for them,” she says. “I believe parents feel more comfortable with grandparents being so close.”
Close enough for a seven-year old to make frequent visits by bike.