My heart aches for my grown-up children as I watch them race through life, struggling to make ends meet in the modern way, which means Providing My Children With Absolutely Everything They Could Possibly Want And More.
Sometimes I wish I could jump in and shout like some kind of over-zealous lollipop lady at a crossing full of schoolkids. I’d give them a huge telling off: “STOP! Stop running around, stop earning, stop building a future that you’ll be too tired and sick to enjoy.”
I decided a few years ago that I wouldn’t meddle – I’d let my children run their lives in whatever way they saw fit. After all, this is a very different world we live in today.
But then something happened to change my mind. My friend and I were talking about how busy-busy-busy our daughters, sons and their partners were; how much harder they seemed to have it than us. Later that night, she shared a Spanish Ikea ad from last year on my Facebook wall with the message, “Maybe it’s time we starts meddling?”
I watched the clip and tears rolled down my face as I thought of the only people in the world who are even more special to me than my own children. You know who I’m talking about!
In a social experiment, kids were called in to a fun room to write their letter to the Three Wise Men, which is the equivalent of our grandies writing to Santa. They wrote pretty typical things: toys, gadgets, unicorns, bikes and so on.
Next, the researchers asked the kids to write a letter to their parents, telling them what they wanted from them.
You might think your grandchild would take the opportunity to score double the presents, but no. The children overwhelmingly requested two things from their parents: more time, and more play.
And here’s the kicker. The final stage of the experiment was to ask the children, if they could only post one letter, which would it be?
The kids all chose the letter to their parents.
In other words, most children would happily forego the Wii, the Ninjago, the Lego, Barbies and Ninja Turtles in exchange for more time with Mum and Dad.
It’s something we all know but as a society don’t seem to know how to address. I know my daughter is wracked with guilt from the long hours she spends away from her children, but she consoles herself with the thought that all this working is setting up a future for them.
I thought long and hard about whether to share the video with her. I knew it would cause her a lot more angst at a time when she is even more busy than her usual super-woman self.
In the end, I decided to meddle. I sent her the link and wrote a message saying that this Christmas, I wanted to give her the gift of more time with her children. Whether than means booking a cleaner to help her out (on the condition she uses those hours to play with my grandchildren), or whether it means sitting down together and working out how I can help her financially to scale back her commitments. It could be as simple as having a conversation that makes her think about her priorities and whether the kids really need all those activities and toys.
But either way, I’m committed. I’ve made the decision to meddle because I want to give my grandchildren the one thing they want more than anything this Christmas.