Something is Missing

The Gosselin children have clean faces, adorable matching clothes, and lots of playthings, some in multiples of six. They live in a nice house with a big backyard, and a great driveway for riding on their bikes and the many other ride-on toys they own. In their short lives, they’ve been taken on trips to Disneyworld, the Outer Banks, a Utah ski resort, and even Hawaii. They have two stay at home parents, who say they are the most wanted children in the world, and they even have a nanny to care for them, so what is the something that is missing?

What’s missing is the individual, totally engaged attention a child can get when they have a grandparent or two in their lives. I’m that kind of grandparent. When I take a child to my house or on an outing for the day, they are the center of my attention. Whether we are at the farmpark, a playground, a fast food restaurant, or playing a board game at my house, my mind is on that child, what he or she is doing, how they are doing it, while they are doing it.

The dynamic is different from parenting. When I was raising my sons, even when I was reading to one of them, or helping him with his homework, my mind was divided. I was wondering what the other two were doing, whether I’d have time to pay some bills, empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry. As a grandparent, I can put all that aside when I have one of my grandchildren. Being a grammie is the best thing I’ve ever done. I love doing it and I love seeing how much the things we do together mean to my grandchildren.

It makes me sad that the Gosselin children have no grandparents in their lives. I know that some grandparents live far away from their grandchildren and can’t spend time with them like I do. I know that some grandparents don’t have the time for or interest in spending time with their grandchildren for various reasons, and I know that some people feel that their parents are toxic and don’t belong in their children’s lives. I’m not sure that any of these examples fit the Gosselin children’s grandparents. For one thing, Kate’s parents and Jon’s mother were in the twins lives, before the sextuplets were born. For another, Kate’s parents actually took care of the twins when Kate was in the hospital before and right after the tups' births.

There is another thing missing from the Gosselin eight, and that has to do with history. Oh sure, when the kids supposedly asked, “where did I come from?” their parents took them to the NICU to show them where they were born and spent the early part of their lives. This answer isn’t going to satisfy them forever. Grandparents supply history, history that helps a child learn not just where he or she comes from, but helps them understand who he or she is, and what family he or she is part of.

I have four grandchildren, with two more on the way. The older boys are four and a half and five. They love to look at pictures of their fathers as babies and children. They ask which picture on my desk is of their dad, which ones are of their uncles. They understand that their fathers are brothers and that I am their fathers’ mom, as well as their grammie. They understand that they are cousins, that they are connected to each other, and that in some way, I am part of that connection.

My grandchildren are curious about those who went before them. I show them pictures of my parents, who are no longer with us. I tell them about my mother, who would have just adored them. I tell my older grandsons that their middle names start with E, because her name started that way. I show them pictures of themselves as babies with Papa, my father, and tell them that our only little girl so far is named after him.

As they get older, they and their siblings will want to know more about their ancestry. I remember learning that three of my grandparents came from Russia, and asking the only American born grandmother, where her parents came from. I wanted to know all about the countries and people that made me who I am, and I think most people do. I’ve read that this is part of the reason that adopted children who love and adore their adoptive parents, search for their biological parents. There is something in most humans that wants a history, that wants to know all about the ones that gave them their hair and eye color, their skin color, their ethnicity.
Jon Gosselin can talk about being half Korean, about having roots in Hawaii. He can even take his children to Hawaii, and perhaps someday to Korea, but the human being that made him half Korean, that tied him to Hawaii, is missing from his children’s world.

The children are going to want to know more about their grandparents as they get older. Mady, Cara, Alexis, Collin, Aaden, Leah, Hannah, and Joel talk about their Asian faces, but there is a whole other side to their heredity. Where did Kate’s grandparents live, her great grandparents? When did her ancestors leave their native lands to come to America, and where did they come from?

Grandparents pass on stories about their own children, stories Mom and Dad might wish to forget, but stories that make parents real to their children. My grandmother and my father were not close. There were some hard feelings, definitely deserved, between them, but she is the one who told me stories about my father. Those stories made me laugh, and realize things about the little boy behind the man. My grandfather on my mother’s side didn’t speak English well. He told all of us the same story over and over, in Yiddish. Yet, I told that story to my kids, and told stories about him, and the funny things he did when he traveled to Florida with my family when I was a child. I’ll be telling my grandchildren about Poppy, too, once they are old enough to understand who he was, because he was quite a character. Grandparents pass on history to their grandchildren. It’s part of our job.

Something is missing from the lives of the Gosselin eight. It’s a chance to have individual time, baking cookies, playing board games, reading books with an older person, who is able to concentrate completely on you. It’s personal history, put forth by someone who was there, and it is stories from the past that formed the future. Something is missing in the lives of the Gosselin eight, that can provide all of the above, and that something is grandparents.

Submitted by Grammier