Geri-Antics: The village raising Generation Alpha

Published 9:31 am Thursday, February 8, 2024

By Anne Carmichael 

Columnist

Generation Alpha is defined as those born between 2010-2024. More than 2.8 million are born globally every week. When they have all been born (2025), they will number almost 2 billion – the largest generation in the history of the world.

Factors such as single-parent homes and two-working-parent homes have accelerated the necessity of assembling a support system (aka a “village”) to help raise the Alpha Generation, and, as of 2007, the Baby Boomers have responded overwhelmingly to the call to step up and become the caregivers for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Generally, we are living longer and healthier. 50 is the new 30, and 70 is the new 50. While many continue to work well beyond the previous retirement age of 65, an equal number have been enjoying the fruits of previous labor and choosing to live (albeit on a budget) unencumbered by the day-to-day grind of a 9-5 office job.

Does that mean we are resting on our laurels, whiling the days away on the golf course, sipping mimosas, and haunting the malls? Hardly. Since I retired nearly seven years ago, I have worked harder than ever. Physically, I left the desk behind and spent long days working in the garden and cleaning the cracks and crevices of my home that I previously didn’t know existed.

But for the last four years, I have been a primary caregiver for one of my great-grandchildren and on an as-needed basis for any of my darlings who need me. I can tell you, that is the most rewarding job I have ever had the privilege of being offered.

My resume now reads like the Who’s Who of Child Rearing. Previous experience includes rearing a son, a daughter, their respective children (my grandchildren), and now my grandchildren’s children (my great-grandchildren). Parenting kids is in our blood because even after my daughter launched her biological fledglings, she adopted 5 more.

When the OG grands came along, they spent many long weekends at Nana’s house. We made memories, and now, as adults, they still relate those memories throughout the family.

This past weekend, the first great-grand of the Alpha Generation came to Nana’s for her first sleepover. It went exceedingly well, and I hope it was the first of many to come for her and her cousins.

My tenure as a caregiver over the past 30 years has also included years when my adult children and their spouses and babies lived with me to help us financially and give them a leg up in saving for and establishing their own homes.

During those residences, one of the bedrooms became designated as the children’s room. The last little family to occupy my home had been gone for more than twenty years, and the former children’s room sat collecting dust and became a sad compilation of junk and clothes from a closet gone wild. Most people have a junk drawer – I had a junk room.

Then came the pandemic, hours of isolation, and, simultaneously, four great-grandchildren. It was time to purge and restore the children’s room to its former glory.

I set about clearing the room and then making it once again kid-friendly. Since all four greats are granddaughters, I purchased a dollhouse. I ramped up my collection of children’s books, refilled the coffers of the toy box, made comfortable seating and sleeping space, and lined all the walls with framed photos of all three generations.

Three of the four greats have initiated the room and gave it a hardy thumbs up.

Just as the OG granddaughters some 25 years ago enjoyed Valentine’s Day tea parties at Nana’s, invitations have just gone out for an inaugural tea with the great-grands.

I’m not going to lie, helping to raise your grandchildren is a workout. Routine tasks such as lifting, carrying, and chasing young children around all day or night can be pretty strenuous. However, research suggests that grandparents who play regularly with grandkids stay active and healthy longer and live longer.

Getting physical also promotes advantages well beyond the merely physical. Through one-on-one physical play together, grandparents and grandchildren can get to better know, understand, and appreciate each other. It’s socially and mentally stimulating, gives your life an extra sense of purpose and meaning, and can establish a wholesome lifetime relationship between grandparent and grandchild.

And what better gift could you give your children in these difficult and demanding financial times than hours, days, and nights of respite (and free) childcare?

It’s a win/win for all concerned.