6 Things You Only Learn From Your Grandparents

Have you called your grandma or grandpa lately? September 13 is National Grandparents Day, so pick up the phone already and show a little well-deserved appreciation. People are living longer these days, but they're having kids later too, so the grandparents you've come to know (if you're lucky) may be a little more on the seasoned side than the 50-something grandparents of yesteryear. But that just means that, by the time you meet them, they have even more wisdom to offer than they might have had before.

My maternal grandmother, the grandparent I got to know best, died about a year ago, but I think about her often, and it's only now beginning to dawn on me what she taught — mostly by example. You may think some of those Sunday afternoons or slow holiday evenings with your extended family are kind of boring at the time, but whether you know it or not you're soaking up valuable info about other time periods, what's important, and how to live well. You might be someone's grandparent someday, but for now you probably occupy or recently occupied the position of grandkid, so do yourself a favor and take a minute to reflect on what it means.

1. Time passes weirdly

If you talk to any grandparent long enough, you'll get the sense that time passes in a very strange manner. They'll speak at length about phases of life that were in actuality pretty quick, and accidentally skip over long stretches in other places. Some events that seem really important were mere flashes in the pan of their now-long lives. This isn't just memory loss — the passing of time is an odd matter. When you've only got 20 years of experience under your belt, much of which you've forgotten, it can help to remember that when you're going through hell (or anything else), just keep going, because there is no turning back anyway.

2. It ain't like it used to be

Everyone likes to joke about how grandparents seem to think that things used to be somehow both much better, and much worse — simultaneously. The thing is, they're actually right. Change is just change, and it's sort of a crapshoot. In some ways, society keeps progressing, but in other ways it sort of flip-flops around. Walking 10 miles to school really did suck, and being able to let your kids play outside unattended without computer screens to distract them was in many ways great. This mixed bag of change will continue being the case until you're that old, too.

3. You only live once

It's easy to say "YOLO," but harder to live it, and grandparents seem to have an edge here. Whether their idea of seizing the moment has become sitting by the pool in Florida, or riding a camel in the holy lands like my grandma finally did in her twilight years, there's no time like the present.

4. Don't sweat the small stuff

This is another life philosophy that's much easier said than done. Maybe you spilled some brightly colored dessert on that beige blouse. Maybe you can't paint your nails half as well as you used to. Maybe you overreacted at first to something small — no worries, you can recover from that too. C'est la vie.

5. Relationships matter

Whatever drama you're facing with your siblings or parents or friends, your grandparents have been there or somewhere similar before. They have definitely seen it all when it comes to people problems, of which there are many exciting and dysfunctional permutations. Whether their familial relationships have ultimately succeeded or occasionally failed due to frictions, grandparents know that at the end of the day, all you really have is the people in your life. Some will come and some will go, but you can behave your best throughout, and hope it brings out the best in others, too.

6. You'll get over it

By the time you meet them, your grandparents have likely been through all manner of personal and professional crises. I was glad that my grandma didn't want to talk a ton about my brief first marriage, but it wasn't because she didn't care. As a victim of a much more painful and damaging early abandonment by her first husband and the father of her first child, she knew everyone involved would ultimately move on with their lives. Your grandparents will lend a sympathetic ear for your difficulties, but at the same time they know that you'll get over it because they did. And you will too.

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