August 1, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 323

Grandparents Of Vigilance Help
Save Children From Terrorism

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, August 1--The greatest Terrorism for a child is the sense of abandonment, a feeling of not being loved.   It's a terror that lasts forever.  And it's coming to an end, thanks to grandparents.
        I know.  I'm a victim of abandonment.  
        All my life I've stuffed the fear of being alone deep in my 6-4, 270-pound, former U.S. combat Marine frame.   Looking at me, you'd think I could eat nails and spit out tacks--that nothing could scare me.    I've ducked lots of real bullets, charged the enemy in fearless disregard for my safety, climbed mountains, risen to the top of corporate America, fallen, righted myself, trudged onward despite the bloodied scars, survived cancer, traveled the world--but no matter what bricks I put on my outsides, down deep in the little boy within me I still hide in the corner, alone, afraid, thinking I am not loved, and struggling to escape the damn dungeons of my childhood.

       I wasn't an abused child.  Nobody chained me to a bed and beat me.   No one locked me in a closet or molested me.   Nobody ground cigarettes on me or told me they wished I hadn't been born, or that I was stupid and useless.   I didn't suffer the horrors of abuse that would make the headlines of the cheap tabloids or cause the public to say:  "what a poor child."
      I just didn't have any connection between my thirst to love and the willingness of a parent or grandparent to love my insides.    My mother was divorced when I was nine months old and had to go to work.  It was the mid 1940's.   She was so busy trying to get her life together, my sister and I were left to fend for ourselves emotionally.    We became third wheels, baggage that didn't have time for a porter to carry, to cuddle, to nurture, to mentor. 
     When my mother remarried right before my fifth birthday, she started a new family with my step father, and  my sister and I became further distanced from the warmth of loving arms.   
      I remember staying with people I didn't like, and who didn't like me or my sister.   They were cold, unwilling to love, and we were frightened of them.  In those days, children were to be seen not heard.   You ate everything on your plate.   You minded.  There were no "time outs," just switches you had to cut and bring for the spanking if you erred.   Lessons were taught without compassion--at least in my case.

        Over the past few decades, there has been rush in America for everyone to hurry and grow up.   Parents have been caught in a vice of trying to "make ends meet," and forced to make work their primary concern to pay for "things," often forgetting the only "thing" that really matters is the loving relationship between them and their children.  The big house, the cars, the nice clothes all run second to the ready  hug, the arm around the shoulder, the sincere concern about who the child is, what the child  want to be, and the willingness to help the child to achieve it.
      Quality time, as it is called, had little room on people's agenda by the time they got home from work, exhausted, wanting to wash their minds by watching television, or swirling down a few drinks to "relax," and then asking, "how'd it go at school today?" as if school had anything to do with life.   Children learned to not express their emotions, but to repress them because emotional bridges didn't exist where children could safely cross over and share their Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies.    And because the Bridge of Vulnerability wasn't built, the parents had no inclination to pass to the children the wisdoms of Courage, Conviction and Right Action.
       Oh, of course, lip service was paid to these needs, but they weren't commonly hugged, embraced, made top priority.   So the drift between parents and children broadened.  The 1955 movie Rebel Without A Cause, starring James Dean,  best expressed  in celluloid an era of alienation between parents and children which has existed into the new millenium.
       But that is changing.

       There is a new but very ancient change underfoot--one that offers far more Vigilance than Terrorism for the children of America.
       The media calls it the "Granny Nanny."   It's a return to the "Village of Vigilance," where in pre-industrialization eras grandparents care for the children while the parents work in the fields, instilling values and philosophies in them, and providing a trust relationship that strengthens children's character, their sense of belonging that no commercial child care can offer.
       In a recent article from the Christian Science Monitor, new census statistics released today show an increase in grandparent caring for working families.   Since 1997, of the 19.6 million pre-school aged children, grandparents have assumed the child care of 21 percent of those who formerly were in commercial child care.
      This trend has removed one out of five children from non-family management, a trend reporter Marilyn Gardner states, is healthy for America.
      Faith Wohl, president of the Child Care Action Campaign in New York says grandparents are filling a needed emotional gap with preschoolers.   "Parents want someone who will love their children, and whom they can trust," she says.

      Besides the grandparents caring for 21 percent of preschoolers, fathers cared for 17 percent while mothers worked.  
      One grandmother, Terri Tepper of Barrington, Ill, commutes by plane to take care of her daughter's children.   Mondays she flies 2.5 hours from Chicago to White Plains, N.Y. where her daughter and son-in-law live until on Thursday  she returns home.   Each week she continues the cycle.  With child care costs ranging from $4,000 to $10,000 a year, the price of a plane ticket is incidental to the love and affection she can provide, noted her daughter.
      There are problems in paradise, however.   The major one is the need for grandparents.  Many families, especially the lower economic ones, have difficulty with child care.  Often the grandparents have to work, leaving no alternative but commercial child care.
      But the the above new trends are heartening.
      If one looks at Terrorism from a child's point of view, the worst of all is the sense of "not being loved."  

      In a society riddled by stresses and strains--economic, political, social, religious--a child's ability to trust a loved one is more important than ever.   Since Terrorism feeds on Fear, Intimidation and Complacency--worries a child is reluctant to speak of to anyone about except those they trust the most--no one is more qualified than the grandparent to unlock the gates of honesty, and to salve the worries of the child.
      More important is the need for the child to learn Vigilant Virtues--those of Courage, Conviction and Right Action.   These character bricks can only be laid by caring coaches, who guide a child through Fear to Courage, who teach a child to climb over the walls of Intimidation by instilling the value of Conviction, and who help a child choose the fork in the road where one leads to Complacency and the other to Right Action.
      Vigilance for a child is knowing he or she has someone that shares his or her soul, and grandparents both have the time and responsibility to give to the child all the wisdoms they have learned and earned over their lifetime.

      Someone once said the difference between a politician and a statesman is that a statesman can tell the truth because he or she isn't worried about being reelected.   In many ways, a grandparent is a Statesman or Stateswoman of Vigilance.    They don't have to worry about "making a mistake" because they've made so many.  Mistakes are, of course, the steel of wisdom.   And true emotional and human honesty finds its source in the grandparents who use their life's wisdom to wipe the fog from a child's confused eyes.
      But the trend toward "GrannyNannies" shouldn't be misunderstood as a revolution in human nature.   For centuries in ancient cultures it was the duty and responsibility of the grandparent and elders of the tribe to teach the children, to stand as Sentinels of Vigilance over them while the mothers and fathers worked to provide.
      We are returning to proven standards, not rushing ahead with new, unproven techniques.

      In my own case, my wife and I chose to come to New York City 2.5 years ago to provide "GrannyNanny" help for our daughter.   My parents weren't in any way involved in the upbringing of our children, and in many ways, they suffered from lack of their wisdom.  

      We believe that our presence near our grandchildren is not just a joy, but a duty.   I can't even imagine a third-party, no matter how loving, able to instill in our grandchildren the deepest roots of love we are willing to offer.
      We also know that as  GrandParents of Vigilance, we have a supreme duty to help our grandchildren fight the Terrorisms of human evolution.  
      My wife and I are acutely aware of the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that can seed itself in a child's mind, and, if unmanaged, grow into Weeds of Terrorism so thick the child's nature can become cold and lifeless.  

    We also know the Virtues of Vigilance--the teaching of Courage, Conviction and Right Action, and make every attempt to instill them within the framework of our grandchildren's parent's philosophies.

      Nurturing a child's sense of values is a full-time job.   But, it is the most rewarding.  

       If you're not yet a Grandparent of Vigilance, one who assumes the role of teacher, muse, mentor and Guardian of Virtues, then consider taking on that role.

       The true Golden Years shine brightly in your grandchildren's eyes, not in your stock portfolio.



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