For most of us, the grandmother was a figure quite present throughout our childhood. They gave us their love and their patience, even when our parents were already tired of all the mess. For us, as a species, they have an important part in our personal development and nature gave us a help with that.
We live 30 years or more past our fertility period, which is very different from the rest of the species on our planet (as far as we know this reality is present just for humans and killer whales) and this has had a great impact in the way in which we raise our little ones.
According to Kristen Hawkes (cit. by Gopnik, 2016) grandmothers are of vital importance in our life, contributing “substantially to the welfare of early human children”. They have a role in feeding, caring (their help allows parents to have a bigger number of children, despite the enormous length of human childhood), they often have even more time and patience for the child and their experience can also be useful for the parents to learn how to care for their young children more effectively. The grandmothers also take benefits from this relationship, keeping themselves active and often healthier, as well as raising their self-esteem.
We are a cultural species, where the groups join together different generations and the youngest learn from the elders, giving our grandparents an important role as a link to our historical past. We learn from our ancestors’ experiences and that’s fundamental for our survival, as a species.
The idea of the grandmother that spoils the children is, in fact, recent. Throughout history they’ve had a major role in a children education, giving them great responsibilities in the child’s successful upbringing. They are teachers and caregivers and their role allows us a “longer immaturity, larger brain size, and advanced learning.” (Gopnik, 2016)
GOPNIK, Alison (2016). The Gardener and the Carpenter. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
(Image: “Grandmother’s love” – Painted by Cynthia Snider)