Solving my babysitting problems while promoting intergenerational policy convergence

March 16, 2010 Rally for Public Schools, Topeka, KS--my parents, kids, and I are standing just out of view to your left

I won’t try to pretend that my main motivation for having my kids’ grandparents babysit them so much is to spur increased commitment on the part of each (kids and grandparents) to the kinds of intergenerationally equitable policy solutions that are so often elusive, or at least presented as such, particularly in the areas of entitlement reform, taxation, and budget cuts.

But I really think it’s a side benefit.

Okay, so my kids are too young to voice their support for productive aging strategies, universal design, and a robust income support policy for older adults. The younger two are still working on talking, and the older one is currently obsessed with Captain Underpants, so we’ll give them a little time.

But my parents get it, I think more than many retired people, and they pay more attention, which is perhaps just as important. And, granted, some of that could be because they’re my parents, and they’re wonderful, and they have to listen to me going on and on about this and that policy debate all the time.

But I think there’s good evidence, anecdotally at least, that their frequent, sustained, and meaningful contact with my kids changes their perspective on policies that affect children and young adults, in ways that have potentially powerful implications for building public support for the kind of policy infrastructure that all generations need and deserve.

  • When they pick my son up at preschool, they see what well-paid early childhood educators working in a clean and spacious environment can do with little kids, and they recognize the importance of every child having access to such a resource.
  • When they take my sick daughter to the doctor, they are reminded of the importance of each child having a medical ‘home’ and the insurance coverage to pay for it.
  • When they see the twins’ faces light up at the public park, they think about the erosion of quality public spaces and the need to preserve areas where children can play safely.
  • When they hear my older son’s friend talk about how he was supposed to go to all-day kindergarten but can’t because his parents can’t afford it, they realize that many programs within our “public” schools aren’t free, and that young families face real challenges in providing for their children’s educations.
  • When they hear my voice on the phone, trying to sound calm as I tell them that the other babysitter cancelled and I’m supposed to give a speech in an hour, but it will take me 40 minutes to get there, they remember (as they grab their keys) that childcare arrangements are precarious for so many families, and that parents can’t work unless someone is providing good, quality, affordable care for their children.

    I would never discount the very real struggles of grandparents raising grandchildren–I, too, am reminded of the importance of supports for older adults when I see my parents’ relief when I pull up to take over the childcare once again–nor do I naively assume that seeing need in the eyes of one’s own grandchildren automatically translates into commitment to meet the needs of children everywhere.

    But I see how my Dad learns so much about our community, and the realities of young families, while he’s watching the kids play at the sandbox and talking to (as he calls them) “the other moms”. I see how my Mom reads the whole newsletter that my son brings home from school, and often asks me questions about it. I see how their lives become integrated with those of other generations as they learn to inhabit the same spaces, and share the same resources, and I think…maybe I’m onto something after all.

  • 2 responses to “Solving my babysitting problems while promoting intergenerational policy convergence

    1. Your thoughts made me think about how my mom and dad relate to my children. When they interact with my children here is what I see.
      My mom teaches my children how to bake cookies and bread, which shows which teach them a talent and that there is better food than fast food.
      My dad plays catch with my children. He knows that during that time he has their undivided attention and talks with them about things that are hard for me for me to talk with them about.
      My mom’s open door policy allows my children to go to a safe place to cool off when they get angry and prefer to be anywhere but here.
      My dad shovels snow and lays sod with my children, teaching them that hard work leads to a good feeling of accomplishment when your done.
      If you call that intergenerational, then I’m all for it.

    2. Pingback: Weekend Links 4 | Fighting Monsters

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