"Take me fishing," cherub faced youngsters plead in a public service commercial that runs frequently during the summer fishing season in our state. It's the last little girl about ten years old, who tugs at my heartstrings. "Take me fishing," she begs her brown eyes wide and innocent. "Because my wedding day will be here before you know it."
Maybe it's because I see myself in her and remember the great times spent with my grandfather sitting and watching a red and white bobber float on the surface of the lake as we waited for the big one to bite.
Grandpa always seemed to have all the time in the world to sit with me and coach me in the skill of knowing just when to jerk the line to hook my fish. It taught me a lot about patience.
Grandpa had a lot of patience when it came to teaching me math basics as well. He would tear off a long sheet of white shelf paper and fill it with simple addition and subtraction problems. He nurtured in me a love for mathematics which served me well in school.
There was always time to show me how to plant a flower properly, turn a pancake over when he made the special treats, or know which tomatoes were just right for the picking. The key word in this relationship was time.
Today, time spent with grandchildren is just as valuable but often difficult to squeeze in between all the extra-curricular activities that fill a child's life and all the opportunities that are presented to active grandparents no matter what their stage of life.
"Take me fishing…hiking…biking…exploring…" All of these and more are now available to grandparents and their grandkids through summer camp programs. The programs are varied, lasting from a weekend up to a week.
This can be the answer to those grandparents and grandkids who are separated by miles. It can bring them together for an experience that will create lasting memories and a special bond.
Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, a family psychiatrist who has studied the grandparent role since 1970, started one of the original camps in 1986 at Great Camp Sagamore, on Raquette Lake in New York. Their programs are sponsored in cooperation with Elderhostel. Programs are varied but usually include hiking, music, and crafts.
Grandkids and Me, founded by Don Schmitz, offers a grandparents' camp that features a discussion time with other grandparents as well as the opportunity to interact with your grandchildren in the beautiful natural area of the camp near Amery, Wisconsin.
At Elderhostel.org, you can choose, according to your desired level of physical activity, other intergenerational programs that offer travel both domestic and international. Enjoy everything from bird watching to hiking, skiing, and kayaking with your grandchildren.
Some local zoos also offer programs where overnight camping is available and you and your grandchild are introduced to nocturnal animals. Or check out a park system near you that might be offering nature programs and camping. The idea is growing and opportunities are multiplying.
Camps and outings like these can dispel the idea that grandparents are old and feeble. "Most folks conceive their notions of grandparents early in life. My own notion, which I'm sure is shared by many, was that grandparents were elderly, had gray hair, wore old fashioned clothes, and, if not feeble in the muscle, were at least stiff in the joints," says Eric Wiggin in his book, The Gift of Grandparenting: Building Meaningful Relationships With Your Grandchildren.
Even if the physical level of your activity is limited, the opportunity to be together will draw your grandchildren closer to you and help them to see you in a different light. The valuable life experience you bring to that shared time will enrich their lives and cement relationships.
So, take them fishing. Take them camping. Spend some precious time devoted only to them-because as parents we learned that all too quickly the time passes and suddenly, the children are grown.
©2006 Karen Robbins
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