Some of the fondest memories of my childhood revolved around the times I spent with my grandparents.
In fact, many rules for life, some of the recipes I follow to this day and the special messages and sayings passed on from my grandparents have shaped my approach to many things in life.
You see, my younger brother was very sick when I was young so my sister and I spent a lot of time being cared for by our grandparents while our parents navigated the many demands of a seriously ill child. The good news is that my brother survived that illness and is now a devoted uncle to five nieces and nephews.
His recovery was a blessing for all, and a positive takeaway from those worrisome years was that our grandparents became an integral and defining part of all our lives. We were fortunate that they lived only a block from our family home when we were young so as children we created a well-worn track between the two homes.
That influence from the oldest members of our family was something I have always valued. Needless to say I wanted a similar influence from grandparents to be enjoyed by each of my children.
While none of my children's grandparents lived nearby we made every effort to ensure that quality time with these special people in our family was enjoyed by all. Meanwhile, the grandparents in question seemed to always have the time to dedicate themselves to fun and creating memories with each of their young charges.
Weekend visits and school holidays allowed for those special connections to be formed between the youngest and oldest members of the family. Regular phone calls were also important.
And I am constantly amazed how many traits and behaviours my children have from the quality time they have spent with their grandparents over the years. I'm equally impressed that, in their adulthood, they still all love to spend time with their grandparents while regular phone calls are commonplace, and memories of those grandparents that have passed continue to be recalled with joy and laughter.
Life on a farm, or going on trips in a truck, fishing, riding horses, being dragged around on a billycart or doing crafts and learning to bake are some of the special memories and skills that I am sure will be forever valued by my children. These are just some of the things they have enjoyed while spending time with their grandparents.
Of course there are also the stories of "the olden days", a quirky song or a cheeky trick - or two - that have been passed through the generations.
My children have grown up with the special saying from one grandparent "don't let fear hold you back". It is a message that I feel certain will serve them well throughout life. An army ditty from another grandparent is something my 29-year-old son can still recite almost 25 years after he first heard it. Thanks Pop, but this is not something to share in the playground. But the memories are priceless.
The thing with grandparents is that they, more often than not, have more time to spend whiling away the hours with their grandchildren. They also seem to be more relaxed in their approach to things that often seem like a challenge for parents as they juggle the day-to-day routine of work, after-school activities, preparing the evening meal, balancing the budget, supporting the homework process and collapsing into bed.
Or maybe it is just that grandparents have become wise enough to know how to stress less and enjoy more of each day, and share that enjoyment with eager and enthusiastic youngsters not yet tainted by the demands of life.
Don't get me wrong - I have heard many grandparents refer to their exhaustion at the end of a day caring for young ones. I have also heard them noting "we have the opportunity to enjoy them and then hand the children back to their parents when we are tired".
I guess in many ways that is the secret to why grandparents make the most of every minute they spend with their grandchildren. The more relaxed approach is no doubt why children enjoy their time with Grandma and Grandpa, Nan and Pop, Nonna and Nonno, Oma and Opa - or whatever special name they have for the most senior members of their family.
Mumma Jak has three children and is familiar with the challenges of parenthood. She is well aware that every child is different, every day can be different and a parent's approach needs to be different according to the situation at hand. She is happy to say she fumbled through, motivated from the perfect starting point - unconditional love. The good news is that all three of her children have become normal functioning adults.