Last Friday was a very special day, for students, grandparents, special friends, and the faculty. Our eager visitors arrived early and really did not want to leave at the end of the morning. In fact, I took great delight in seeing a number of grandparents over in the Upper School. Several took tours of the building to learn more about this division. Others were just looking for their older grandchildren to say, “Hi!”

It is amazing to realize how important these days can be for everyone. For the purposes of this letter, I’m going to focus on the “grandparent” portion. We deeply appreciate and respect the “special friends” who joined us and I know they had a tremendous day as well.  It is the grandparent-grandchild relationship that is truly unique and special. We had grandparents who literally walked from their homes in Oak Marr, and others who traveled from Vietnam, European countries, South America, and a whole host of countries all around the world. One grandfather had left his house in the Eastern Shore at 3 a.m. to drive to Oakton! As I moved around the tables, I could hear different languages being spoken. I could hear grandparents sharing with each other how excited they were to be here and how they had looked forward to this day. I also had some grandparents take pride in sharing how many times they had come over the years, and several noted with a touch of sadness in their voices, that this was their last time since their youngest grandchild was in 8th grade, and soon to be off in the Upper School.

It was also fascinating to watch the drop off.  Just as I love carpool and the waving and greeting part of it, this “carpool” took on a flavor all on its own. Cars pulling up, grandparents getting out, and heading in to the gym.  Some drove in themselves and then began the search as to where to go. Many had grandchildren who walked them to the door, kissed them goodbye, and finally let go of that special hand before heading off to class.  One father, after walking his parents in to make sure they were situated, came out and remarked, “I feel like it is the first day of school. I am worried if they will make friends, if they will find a place to sit, and if they will have a good day.” And then he smiled and headed off for his morning, knowing full well that it was a packed gym and that they would certainly find a place.

Part of the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren, is the names that we take on. These are names that no one else calls us. We all have our formal names and titles in our professional careers, but in this relationship, we also carry very special names. Names that we heard, or that students shared with us, included:

Nana Papa Papa
Máma Grammy Gramps
Grandpa G Oma and Opa Abue
Abu Abuelita and Abuelito Gramma
Pappy Grandad and Grammy Paw-paw and Mimi
Gigi Grams Sadie
Poppy Muka Moo-moo
Halmoni and Habi Appue Apichy
Amema Poppy Nanasue
Jaju Meemaw and Papaw Nini
Bubby and Zady Gobby and Popock Grand-pi
Mema Gong Gong Por por
Ah Ma and Ah Gong Dadi Pop
Nani Baba Gaga
Teta and Jiddo Poppa Mommom
Gaga and Poppa Bestamama Moo Moo and Va Va
Ni Ni  and Yeah Yeah Nana and Poppa Hubby and Hominy
Abbo and Abba Dida and Dadu Busia

And the list could go on and on. Many of these names reflect the cultures of the grandparents.  Some are family traditions or names that the kids came up with at some point in their infancy that grandparents latched on to them as a very special part of that bond. Regardless, the use of those names makes the relationship between grandparent and grandchild that much more personal, meaningful and individualized.

The performances in the gym were incredible and they did not only entertain the grandparents, but also made them feel special. Children’s eyes brightened, just as a light bulb when we turn the switch on, when they suddenly spotted their grandparents. Some began to wave and smile in the midst of a performance. If they could, they would have ran over to give them a hug right at that moment.  Grandparents had camera flashing away as well.  It was rock star meet rock star. Once the grandparents and special friends moved to the classrooms, the real fun began!  Students were using their iPads to interview their grandparents and grandparents were also interviewing their grandchildren. I heard poems being read to each other and 5th grade students shared their Inventions Across the Ages. One science class, literally had grandparents helping their grandchildren dissect a starfish! I heard grandchildren, as they filmed their grandparents, asking questions like, “Were you creative in school?  What kind of innovations did your school have?  What type of poetry did you like?  What was your favorite subject?”  The learning and the love that went back and forth were something to behold.

Occasionally, I would also see youngsters darting out into the hallways from their classroom, in great angst, because they knew their grandparents were somewhere, but they were not in their room yet. Probably they were with another sister or brother, but, “Where are they? Were they lost? What was taking so long?” They desperately wanted someone to be there. This also reminds us that some children can’t have a grandparent or a special friend on this day and that can be difficult. We do not want to exclude anyone or make them feel awkward. This is actually something that we are going to look at, as several ideas have been brought forth to make sure everyone has someone on that day.

In the end, it was a marvelous morning. The foundation of all of it was pure and simple love, grandparents and grandchildren sharing a special moment in time, and together creating memories that will always be there – just for the two of them.

As a grandparent myself, I encourage all of us parents to never lose sight of the fact that the smile of a grandchild, the touching of the hand, and the wanting to hold hands, can make a grandparent melt in seconds. I know when our oldest granddaughter Anadelle was born, I was putty in her hands and while she is now tall, lanky, and a normal, feisty ten-year old, I also know I can still melt in seconds. And with my other grandchildren who have come along since then, it doesn’t take long before I am under their spell. The unconditional love that is shared is different from the love we obviously carry as parents. Please recognize how important it is to your parents to have that special relationship.

And as we go back into our daily routines, let’s all commit to cherishing that special bond with grandparents. It transcends generations. It is the link that makes family truly a family.

While we may only have Grandparents’ Day at certain times, please make Grandparents’ Day in our homes as often as we can. If people can’t be there in person, let’s do it through Skype, FaceTime, or even a telephone call. I can assure you that in our house when the phone rings and we know it is our kids and a chance to say “Hi” to our grandchildren, we immediately drop what we are doing and take advantage of that time. Find ways to keep that link active and ongoing.  And as your children get older, you will be amazed at how your parents can help you with some advice or support. Sometimes a word from a grandparent at the right time can be more powerful than us talking until we turn blue. Remember we are Huskies and a family – and together – we will help our wonderful children grow and develop into the amazing young people we watch graduate each year! The world may be changing like crazy, but ultimately it all comes down to family. To those of you who did have grandparents, and special friends attend last week – thanks for sharing them with us! It was a special day for all of us.

Here is the link to some of the pictures that have been on our website. And please, join me in offering special thanks to Tina Rafalovich, Robin Ennist, Lisa Benn and the huge number of parent-volunteers who all helped bring that special Husky hospitality together. You made it happen!

Best wishes to you! Enjoy the spring!

P.S.  With all the snow and ice over the winter, the Lower School Parent Discussion Series (click here for the handout) that I wanted to host in the winter, was ultimately postponed until this Thursday, May 15, at 8:15 a.m., in the Middle School library.  We will have an open agenda with a chance just to talk about school and the vision for the future and where are we going in the education of our kids.  I look forward to seeing you on Thursday!