National Grandparents Day

grandma rosemary

Across the country over the next week many schools will celebrate National Grandparents Day with class programs, homemade gifts and maybe even a song or two celebrating the grandparents who touch the lives of young kids everywhere. National Grandparents Day is celebrated the first Sunday after Labor Day every year, and this year it falls on Sunday, September 10th, this coming Sunday.

​When I think about the role my grandparents played in my own life, I am reminded of so many precious memories. From snapping green beans with my grandmother while  my granddad yelled at the Saints playing on television, to visiting my Gammy in Virginia on the farm. Grandparents have always held an important role in my life; guiding, nurturing, and cheering me on.  Today, I see the role my own parents and inlaws, play in my kid’s lives. When grandparents come to visit, that unmistakable smile and big hug tells me just how much my kids love their grandparents. The bond between grandparent and child is so special and deserves to be celebrated! Although National Grandparents Day may not be as widely publicized as Mother’s and Father’s Day, its history is uniquely rooted in a love for the entire family unite.

National Grandparents Day was a grassroots effort by Marian Lucille Herdon McQuade who in 1970 began a campaign to honor grandparents on a specific day each year. In 1979 Congress passed the legislation with then-President Jimmy Carter signing it into effect. View the proclamation in its entirety here.

McQuade and her husband had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

… I’d like to pause for a moment to let that sink in… 15 children!!!

​I can’t keep up with the three I have, so 15 makes my head spin a little! With 15 children and 43 grandchildren, the family dynamic was naturally an important part of McQuade’s life. 

She envisioned National Grandparents Day as a family-centered holiday with the purpose of honoring grandparents, giving grandparents an opportunity to show love to their children’s children, and helping children become aware of the strength, wisdom, and guidance the older generations can provide. Fun little fact, initially there was a typo in the grammatical publicizing of Grandparents Day, leaving out apostrophes to show the possessive form of the word.  But this oversight has served the holiday well as McQuade never intended for it to belong to just the grandparents. Instead, she saw it as a day to celebrate the whole family and the value all generations have in the family unit.

On a national level, this day allows us to affirm the identity and importance of grandparents and the important role they play in the family dynamic. McQuade’s efforts to advocate for older adults in the community far surpassed her achievement in creating National Grandparents Day though.  Much of her life was spent advocating for older adults, including home-bound individuals, both in leadership and politics. 

In 1971 she was elected Vice-Chair of the West Virginia Committee on Aging and was appointed as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging.  In 1972, Mrs. McQuade’s efforts resulted in President Richard Nixon proclaiming a National Shut-in Day. She served as President of the Vocational Rehabilitation Foundation, Vice-President of the West Virginia Health Systems Agency, and was appointed to the Nursing Home Licensing Board, among many other involvements.

grandparents day gammy
My Gammy with my middle child - taken at 4 weeks old, when they first met.
Gammy - Grandparents Day
My Gammy with my middle child - taken last month.

So, this Sunday, take a moment to appreciate your grandparents whether living or deceased. Express your love and gratitude to them and let them know the value they hold to your family. Here are some simple yet meaningful ways to celebrate the day and make it special for the grandparent in your life:

  • Call your grandparent or better yet video chat with them via skype or FaceTime: Connecting with family that doesn’t live close to them is a great way to get your grandparent involved and help them feel more connected.
  • Send a handwritten letter or card expressing your love and gratitude: There is something about a hand-written card that really shows a person you care enough to take the time to sit and write them.
  • Cook a special family recipe together: There seems to always be at least one special or secret family recipe that’s passed down from generation to generation. Spend this time learning the story behind the recipe and learning how to prepare it for your own family.
  • Create a family tree together: Get out the pictures, craft paper and glue to create a family tree. This is a great activity to include younger generations in as well!
  • Go through old photographs or old movies together: Sit and reminisce about fun family memories by going through old photographs or old movies. This is also a great memory exercise for older adults. Try not to get upset or discouraged if there are times your grandparent does not remember, instead focus on the positive and the memories they do possess.
  • Interview your grandparents and learn about their lives: There are so many wonderful stories that can come from listening to our grandparents and learning about the lives. Ask questions, be inquisitive and you might be surprised what fascinating lives they have lead!
  • Involve younger children in some of these craft activities for Grandparents Day.
  • If your grandparents are no longer living…
    • Spend the day with family reminiscing over memories or old family pictures.
    • Visit with an elderly neighbor or take them a homemade treat.
    • Stop by a local nursing home and spend time with a resident that has not had a visitor in a while. 
  • No matter how you choose to spend this National Grandparents Day, remember to always show love and kindness to the elderly in your community and work to advocate on their behalf just as McQuade did many years ago. Leave a comment and tell us about the special grandparent in your life. We would love to hear how you plan to celebrate the ones you love on this National Grandparents Day!
Grandparents Day
One of my favorite pictures of my Grandmother and Granddad.
grandparents day
That's me with my Memaw (Great-Grandmother), PawPaw, and Gammy in 1986.
grandparents day
Me with Pop and Granny, my great-grandparents. P.S. How cute am I in this picture?!

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