Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Why we need to get our kids talking with the older generation

Do you know what sort of things your grandparents used to eat for breakfast?

I didn't. Not really. I assumed it would have been fairly similar to us: maybe toast. Or perhaps eggs and bacon.

It wasn't until last week, when 6 year old Beatrix had homework that involved asking what we used to eat, that I discovered that porridge was the order of the day for breakfast and that eggs and bacon were normally a lunchtime thing. Well, in my grandad's house at least.

Me and my Grandad at Christmas
It was only when we rang my 87 year old grandfather, Beatrix's Great Grandad Gordon, to ask him questions about what he ate as a child and whether his family grew their own food (they didn't because they didn't have a garden) and he started to talk about ration books and buying loose tea from a sack that I realised quite how much the world has changed.

Our grandparents - my children's great grandparents - are living history. A finite resource of knowledge and first-hand experiences that they are usually quite willing to share. You just have to ask.

Having lost three great grandparents in the last few years, it struck me that this wealth of information won't last forever.

The history books might tell us about air raid shelters and battles, but they don't always provide details about the details of every day life. And while museums can provide interesting examples of the toys our predecessors played with, it's not the same as someone telling us which was their favourite car and of the playground politics associated with a game of marbles.

All it took was one phone call. A simple conversation between a six year old child and her 87 year old great grandad. A connection that she might remember long after his lifetime.

So pick up the phone or take the kids to visit their elderly relatives and ask them to share stories of what life was like when they were young. And if you are not as fortunate as me and you no longer have any grandparents, volunteer to befriend someone at your local nursing or care home.

Chat about what life was like. Maybe ask for tips on how to make your food stretch further, how to grow your own veg or how to make-do-and-mend. Let's make the most of the precious time we have together.

Our living history won't be around forever.