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The greatest gift

Whether near or far, grandparents enrich kids’ lives

Created date

August 25th, 2009

One of the greatest life lessons Peggy Wixted learned came from her grandchildren. They taught me not to sweat the small stuff, enjoy life, and laugh more, she says. Wixted, a grandmother of five, has plenty of opportunities to practice all of those lessons and teach new ones as she plays an active role in the lives of her grandkids, ages 8 to 22 years old.

A grand ol time

We see the three youngest grandkids at least once a week, says Wixted, who lives at Charlestown with her husband, Joe. They really go out of their way to include us in their lives. They visit us here, and we swim in the pool and take advantage of the cultural and fun activities on campus. The Wixteds also make off-campus visits. We stay overnight at their homes and do daytrips to places like the Baltimore Aquarium and the science center, she says. I also do some Girl Scout and Cub Scout activities that they re involved in. This summer, Mrs. Wixted and her grandkids traveled to Ocean City, N.J., for a family beach getaway. It was wonderful. We had such a fun time together. I enjoyed it just as much as they did, she says.

Family ties

A new survey by Oxford University shows just how much a positive grandparent/grandchild relationship like the Wixteds can contribute to a child s well-being. The study showed that not only do teenagers value intergenerational bonds, but having a grandparent actively involved in their life produces better adjusted adolescents. Taking part in their grandchildren s hobbies and interests was found to be linked with fewer emotional, social, and behavioral problems. Grandparents who do things with their grandchildren are those who bring the most emotional benefits, says Ann Buchanan, Ph.D., M.A., director for the Oxford Centre for Research into Parenting and Children, who led the study. There are huge advantages for grandchildren of this kind of active grandparenting. Experts also say the part grandparents play is dynamic and critical to the family. The grandparents roles in the family include providing unconditional love without the criticism and discipline that come with being a parent, says Lillian Carson, a licensed clinical social worker and author of The Essential Grandparent: A Guide to Making a Difference. They serve as role models and give kids a sense of stability, safety, security, and support. Grandparents, she continues, also provide a sense of family history and continuity while giving kids a connection to their past. My grandchildren like to hear about what it was like when I was growing up, says Althea Carrick, who has five grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. Residing at Charlestown in Catonsville, Carrick, a retired Prince George s elementary school teacher, still manages to keep a close bond with her grandchildren, who are scattered from Maryland to Boston and Indiana to Georgia. She says weekly phone calls and frequent visits keep the family close. Earlier this year, at the age of 94, Carrick traveled to Boston to attend grandparents day at school. This was the second year I ve traveled up there for grandparents day, she says. I really enjoy it. My granddaughter and her family also have a place on Lake Winniepesauke in New Hampshire, and I fly up there in the summer. Carrick says when her grandkids visit her at Charlestown, they always make a point to take in local sights like the Smithsonian and Inner Harbor and visit with other family members in the area. And, she adds, they never pass up an opportunity to indulge in a Maryland crab cake. I guess you could say that going out for crab cakes when they visit has almost become a family tradition, says Carrick.

Honorary celebration

On September 13, grandparents across America will be honored on National Grandparents Day. The creation of West Virginia housewife Marian McQuade, the holiday became official when President Jimmy Carter designated the Sunday after Labor Day each year as National Grandparents Day. For the Wixteds, every day is like Grandparents Day. Our grandkids bring so much joy to our lives, says Mrs. Wixted. I think the greatest thing about being a grandparent is being able to watch them grow up and be the good kids that they are. I m very grateful for that.

Family fun

Looking for ways to celebrate Grandparents Day? Here are a few grand events happening in the Free State.

Prince George s County Fair

Sunday, September 13, is the final day of the Prince George s County Fair. Everything you could want in a county fair is here: a horse-pull contest, pig and duck races, car show, pie-eating contest, crafts, karaoke competition, and more. Call 301-952-0270 or go towww.countyfair.orgfor details.

Grandparents Day at the Baltimore Museum of Industry

The Museum of Industry celebrates National Grandparents Day, where fun for kids and their grandparents includes hands-on activities like making keepsake memory books. Call 410-727-4808 for more information or log

Grandparents Weekend at Frontier Town, Ocean City

Ocean City s premier camping resort is hosting a grandparents weekend and down home cookin dinner on September 11 and 12. Enjoy storytelling round the campfire; a special pancake breakfast where grandparents eat free when accompanied by their grandchild; and a chicken-and-dumpling dinner, a hayride, and a dance. Call 1-800-228-5590 or

Clarks Elioak Farm in Ellicott City

All grandparents accompanied by a child get free hayrides. Come with your children and grandchildren and see the Enchanted Forest attractions you remember. Check out the pine tree maze and enjoy the petting zoo and pony rides. Call 410-730-4049 or