The Joy Series: The Overlooked Power of Intergenerational Relationships

family members of different ages gathered around a table for Thanksgiving and the grandfather carving the turkey, exemplifying the power of intergenerational relationships

As we sit down to dinner and I look around at the faces looking back at me, several things resonate with me. There’s a span of 73 years between the oldest to the youngest at the table. The youngest just turned fifteen and started driving, while the oldest is barely driving anymore as he approaches his 89th birthday. The conversations range from what was on the news that day to stories from years ago. This isn’t a holiday or special celebration—it’s just our normal dinner.

Four generations gather around the table to fellowship and break bread. I consider each one’s preferences when planning meals, and my parents share in the responsibilities of meal preparation even though we don’t live under the same roof.

My grandfather talks about the changes in everything. He often claims that nothing stays the same. The pandemic was hard for us, as one is elderly, one is immunocompromised, and two are considered essential workers. But the community and fellowship that we provided each other truly saved our sanity during that time.

The roles are reversed these days. We have all taken care of the other at one point in life, and now the generations twist into a circle as we care for my grandfather.

My son has the blessing of growing up around the dinner table. He has different perspectives on life and wisdom beyond his years. He meets an older generation where they are, not demanding that they conform to today’s ways, but finding common ground. Some days that may mean watching an old black-and-white TV show or going on a drive so you can hear the same story once again. Even in the monotony and frustrations, we are still blessed with having this time together, to revel in the power of intergenerational relationships.

The Power of Intergenerational Relationships

Through spending time together, I’ve been blessed to learn things that I never could have imagined. I know about my grandparents and their childhoods. I’ve had the privilege of knowing not only my great-grandparents but also my great-great-grandparents through stories and memories shared around the dinner table.

how my grandmothers left a legacy of true strength

My grandmother gracefully taught me to take mere scraps of fabric and transform them into quilts. I learned how to plant, grow, harvest, and preserve food for winter months. A lot of hard work goes into that! My son has been able to realize the fruits of his hard work pay off as he has a new appreciation for his food, where it comes from, and how much work was involved in being able to grow it.

The lessons and memories that I’ve learned through the different generations do come with their own challenges.  It’s easy to become frustrated with hearing the same stories over and over or navigating how to tell someone fifty years your senior that their actions are dangerous to themselves and others. It’s hard to discipline an older person while trying to set a good example for your children, always having to toe the line to say what needs to be said with respect and dignity.

These moments have given us all a sense of belonging. I’ve learned more about my family and even my own parents and husband as we sit around the dinner table sharing stories about our day which leads into a story of the past. Since our son started high school, we’ve heard all about my parents’ experience and even my grandfather’s during their high school years.

There are years of wisdom around the table, a plethora of knowledge, experience, heartache, love, and sacrifice. Growing up. I never thought it was odd that my grandparents were so close—one set was just next door while the other was a 10 minute car ride away. My husband didn’t have that experience, as his grandparents lived in different states throughout the East Coast.

He’s been given a second opportunity to learn from the older generations of my family, being able to ask questions about things like home projects and maintenance. Between my dad and grandfather, they’ve probably done it more than once. He has also been able to appreciate the closeness of familial relationships.

Joy Through Memories and Companionship

The memories that are shared around the table bring a new sense of joy into our lives. I don’t often use recipes in the kitchen, preferring to add a little of this and a little of that until it tastes right. My grandfather commented the other day, “You must have gotten that from Mama because she didn’t use recipes either.” I’ve heard on more than one occasion from my grandfather, “You mess up just as many pots and pans as your Grandma. You know she had to use every pot in the house to make a meal.”

The time we spend dining together each evening gives my grandfather people to be around.  I’m certain it is lonely when everyone you once knew has passed on. The familiar faces at the table help to boost his well-being—and the nutritious meals help his health!

While some may find the task of caregiving a burden, I find it a blessing. The memories I’ve been able to share with each generation since we started these family dinners are priceless. The familial bonds of love are strong among us.

The secret to enjoying time with family is mastering the art of kind communication. This can be especially hard with teenagers, but we’ve got you covered there: How Can I Connect and Communicate with My Teenager Better? with Jerusha Clark – 182

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