Connection Begets Connection

Posted March 3, 2016

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by Amanda Janquart

Teachers have countless touching and humorous stories about the connections between the preschoolers and the residents at Inver Glen. We work to instill respect, acknowledgement and patience. One of our roles is to put preschoolers on a path that crisscrosses often with the grandmas and grandpas because we know connection occurs most often between the lines, in the small moments that are easily rushed past. We nurture those moments until they become second nature and they show up often in shared greetings, conversation, touch, gift giving and play.

I asked parents to share stories about these moments. Were they being talked about at home?

Robyn Hannan, mother of three-year-old Isaac, wrote of his deepening bond with the residents.

Isaac doesn’t usually give specifics about his interactions upstairs, but what I have noticed is that he is much more connected to the upstairs neighbors this year than in the previous two. He loved visits from the grandmas during Toddler Time, but the relationships have deepened this year. He’ll tell me about how the grandmas and grandpas get involved in the imaginative play regarding pirates or watch while the kids play outside. You can almost watch his circle of care get bigger as he talks-and it works both ways. He can tell they care about him, and you can see he cares about them, not just in his stories but in how he remembers (most of the time) to walk quietly in the hall since the “grandmas and grandpas might be sleeping.”  As a mom, to me the greatest thing is that Isaac gets this time at such a young age with a population we rarely give a voice to in our society. I know those relationships will be recalled fondly as he gets older.

Natalie Mulrooney, mother of three-year-old Annemarie, spoke about her close relationship with one resident in particular.

Annemarie and I were talking about school. She was telling me all of the things she loves most about school: her friends, painting, her teachers, playing outside…etc. Then she stopped and said, “But Mom, my favoritest part about school is when we get to see the Grandmas and Grandpas. Because I love Grandma Margaret and she loves me and she says the best part of her day is when she gets to see me and she never wants to let me go when she hugs me. But I tell her it’s okay because I’ll always come back.”

Eydie Nelson, found joy in her 4-year-old son’s connection with Grandma Bette.

I simply love how Myles thinks of Grandma Bette as his grandma. I just love this. So sweet.

What about beyond the classroom mores and expectations? Are the connections we nurture showing up outside of the school setting?
Natalie Mulrooney shared one such story about her daughter’s comfort connecting with seniors outside of school.

Annemarie often walks up to seniors while we are out and engages in conversation with them. On one occasion we were at Walgreens and she walked up to a woman with a walker and touched her hand and smiled. I forgot what she asked her but they engaged in about a three-minute conversation and by the end the woman was beaming. I know that she does this because she has so much practice at school!

She shared a story of her toddler son’s encounter with a grandpa while picking his sister up from preschool.

Mack and I were in the lobby and I was sitting on the sofa putting his warm clothes on before going out. A grandpa who I didn’t recognize was sitting across from us looking a little down. Mack looked at him and smiled. When the man grinned back, Mack blew him a kiss. His face lit up and he said, “Kid, that was better than a kiss from a 21 year old blonde!”

Becca Goodpaster, mother to 5-year-old Ambrose, wrote a poignant reflection on just how large an impact fostering a relationship can have.

Hippocrates compared life to seasons and old age to winter. Winter is quickly becoming our family’s favorite season. Though many see winter as a time of inconvenience, darkness and cold, we see it as a time to slow down, reflect, and seek beauty.

In an age in which popular culture values youth, our family feels we’ve neglected the wisdom and appeal of our elders. Books, TV shows, and talk with friends often portray the youth as progressive, winsome, and intelligent, and parents, grandparents or anyone older as nitwits.

We chose to send Ambrose to preschool at All Seasons with several goals in mind, but the greatest pursuit of ours was to get to know the seniors. To love them and show them value and relevance to our lives. This goal was met with enthusiasm when Ambrose took an immediate liking to his classroom reader–Grandma Bette. He would ask to go and visit her. He would make her many creations at home and involve her in his play. She is not just someone he sees at school–she is a friend to him. Ambrose easily opened the door for us to pursue a relationship with Bette.

Our friendship with Grandma Bette has shown us that indeed winter is the most beautiful of seasons. She has faced many trials in the past several years and still exudes positivity, peace and joy. She understands something I have yet to learn, and I desire to glean much more wisdom from her as we continue to visit her.