In the last 15 years grandparents have become popular again—but always provided they don't live in the house.
Q Why the regained popularity, then?
A Children are marrying so young, they're going steady so early, that the two sets of parents are almost bound to know each other, almost forced to like—or at least accept—each other. Often they are forced to combine to support their married children, and the grandchildren that come along.
Also we have that wonderful invention, the sitter. That's a wonderful thing to do with your mother-in-law. You see, when she comes in, you can go out.
Q Doesn't this mean we might get back to the three-generation family—children, parents and grandparents living under the same roof?
A No. There is, I think, a continuing trend away from it, especially in these "ghettos" that are being built for older people.
A They are special preserves where only older people may live. In some, no one under 50 is allowed—like a maternity ward in reverse. As someone said of these places recently, "They're programed for death."
Instead of having the older people near the growing children and being part of the community, they're putting them away in these boxes.
Q Could grandparents really contribute to a family?
A I think older people know much more about change than young people. What children have to learn is how to live in a changing world.
These children that are born now think the world was made the way it is today—complete with transistors. They need someone who gives them some kind of perspective—someone who can convince them that you could be born in one world, grow up in another, and grow old in a third.
Q And could grandparents do that for them?
A Grandparents could give them an idea it's possible.
Q Anything else they could do?
A A whole lot. As people marry younger and have children younger, we have younger grandparents. They're healthier. They're more likely to be alive, vigorous, with lots of time. So I think we ought to fit grandmothers into the life of the community much more.
Q What about grandfathers?
A Grandfathers, too. But grandmothers are the ones that have the most time. Grandfathers are still actively working today, in most cases.
Q Living apart as most of them do, what could these grandmothers do in the life of the family?
A I think we could have G-TA's—Grandmother-Teacher Associations. Grandmothers should be still tied into the school, should be going to the school, helping the school, conferring with the teachers about Jimmy's spelling and Suzy's arithmetic. They should be doing a lot of the chauffeuring. They have the time—much more time than young mothers.
Furthermore, that way we would not be turning grandmothers into cranky, disgruntled taxpayers. Now we graduate mothers from the P-TA the day their last child leaves school.
We say, "You don't belong any more." And so they get cut off from the whole school life of the community. Instead of being an asset, they're often just a group of rather unhappy critics.