Some may think the role of grandparents has diminished in this age where families live so far apart. Yes, we have Skype and Google Hangouts. One of my granddaughters even taught me how to Snapchat and faux sing with her on Music.ly. But, we are no longer in the neighborhood. We can’t see our grandchildren in person every day or even every week. We don’t go to all their soccer games, recitals, or school plays. And we don’t know their friends on a first name basis.
But, that doesn’t mean we can’t play a very special role in their lives—one that only a grandparent, who has lived a long life, full of so many different experiences, can share with someone just beginning their adventure. So, I was moved to tears when I found this letter my husband sent to his oldest granddaughter on the occasion of her starting 7th grade. I hope you will treasure it as much as I do.
My lovely granddaughter,
Today, you are embarking on a new stage in your life. I know, it doesn’t seem like a big deal for you now, but in a few years, when you look back, you will realize how important middle school and high school are. These are your formative years, the time your adult character is going to be formed. And this is why I thought it would be good if I could offer you some of my thoughts. These are not the Ten Commandments—just advice from a loving Saba.
Your age, pre-teens and teens, is especially susceptible to peer pressure. Being ‘cool’ looks very important. Conforming to the habits and opinions of your friends sometimes takes precedence over your own opinions and values. I am especially referring to the pressure to not look nerdy, to be one of the gang.
Don’t forget: You are a person in your own right, not part of a group. You always had intellectual curiosity about everything far more than I have seen in other kids your age. You asked so many probing questions, and loved to learn new things. You had an open mind about everything, willing to learn and experience new things. Don’t give it up for the sake of blending in. Your mind is outstanding, and it would be a terrible waste not to allow it to flower.
Teenage is hard. You are no longer a young girl, yet not a grownup woman. This in-between stage can be frustrating, not only to you but to the people who love you and raise you on a daily basis as well. This is what I meant when I said ‘don’t be a pain in the butt.’ You will sometimes feel that your parents don’t understand you, that you know better, that they may be stupid. Try to suppress these feelings. Remember, they are wiser not because they are simply ‘the adults,’ but because they went through all the stages in life that you haven’t experienced yet, and it gave them the wisdom to know what is good and what is not so good. Mama didn’t always do the right things when she grew up. Papa, I’m sure, wasn’t always 100% as well. But they learned from their mistakes and are trying to steer you from repeating the same mistakes.
You have a warm personality and a terrific mind, and if you just nourish it with curiosity, and knowledge, and love, you can change the world. The Jewish Talmud says, “He who saves one soul, it is as if he saved the whole world.” ‘Saving the world’ doesn’t have to be something heroic. You make the world better by healing the sick, by writing a story that will give pleasure to people, by defending the powerless against injustice, or by serving people who cannot fend for themselves. It will enrich your life and add some happiness to the world.
So, my lovely granddaughter, as you embark on this wonderful journey, I promise to be with you at every step, as long as I am around.
I love you very much.
P.S. Try to wean yourself from the phone. It consumes you and your mind at the expense of the real important things in life. Read more, play music, have real conversations with people, not just chats. It will make your life so much more rich and rewarding.
This was first posted Sept 19, 2016 and has been republished during this Holiday season to remind us of the power of family.