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Skipagenerational Communications Phenomenon

by Barb Hansen
August  2007

Grandparents and grandchildren communicate in a special kind of way.

Hereís a for instance: The grandmother is on the floor with a four-year-old boy building a Lego garage for his new fire truck.  She even makes truck engine and siren-like noises.

And hereís the granddad with his five-year-old granddaughter holding a birthday party for Barbie and her friends.  Who would have thought a granddad could fuss over Rapunzelís long hair?

This kind of communication involves words, certainly, but also hand gestures, and probably some sounds that would sound weird unless you were also privy to this special wave length.

I am not a doctor. I arrange yacht charters and liveaboard yacht courses for a living.  But I am a keen observer of human behavior. I call this Skipagenerational Communications Phenomenon (SCP).

This is not to knock the terrific two-generational communications Iíve noted in some families, especially boating families. The Fort family of Spartanburg, South Carolina comes to mind. Dad, mom, daughter and two sons took courses at Florida Cruising and Sailing School. The older son went sailing while the rest took Powerboat 101-102.  After they returned home, I got a super, nice letter from the dad thanking us for the courses and I could tell by the tone that this is a family generous with its compliments to others and to each other.

But Skipagenerational Communications Phenomenon is different. Iíve asked grandparents about it and they confirm that it exists. One suggested the possibility of a special gene that kicks in when a grandchild enters the life of a grandparent. ďI didnít realize how connected I would feel to a child that wasnít my own except that of course, it is my child, isn't it?Ē 

Grandkids, meanwhile, may wonder what the fuss is all about. But when GPs are passing out pocket or purse change and Cheetos, one doesnít argue, does one? 

Parents, busy with what parents do and grateful for the free baby-sitting service, usually just stay out of the way.

The GP-GK connection stays strong through the years. Good anecdotal evidence of this occurs when the grandchildren grow out of toddlerhood and grandparents take them on a cruise. 

Recently, we chartered a vessel for a cruise by three generations of the Family Trachtenberg of Pennsylvania.  Grandparents. Parents. Grandson, 7. Perfect. 

Granddad Joe Trachtenberg wrote me that this was one of the best vacations the family ever had. When they put in at South Seas Plantationís marina they saw manatees all around them. Do you think that made an impression on a seven-year-old? Do you think Grandmother took note? Oh. My. Yes.

Maybe a seven-year-old camped out under the stars on the foredeck. Maybe he got to wear his favorite T-shirt all week.  I didnít ask.

Something uplifting happened. Perhaps a certain young person got to stay up later than he ever has in his whole life and listen to his granddad tell ghost stories.  I wouldnít have been surprised to learn that the grandson got to sit at the helm station with Granddad and steer a Mainship 43 for a few minutes. Or, that Grandmother Trachtenberg made her very special pancakes one morning. By special request.

So far as I know the scientific literature hasnít discussed SCP but marketing people are clearly aware of it. I've seen advertisements for multi-generational vacations for Disney, dude ranches and cruises.

Three-generation vacations always give extended families a chance to reconnect. Mom and Dad get a little break from taking care of the kids 24/7. Grandma and Grandpa treasure the time that the entire family is together.

But that special communications link between grandparents and grandchildren is, truly, the two-part epoxy that glues all three generations together so tightly.

 

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