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.
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.