The older generation gets on so well with the very young
I’m encouraging my mother-in-law to take up motorcycling. A cynic might suspect my motives, but to be honest, I never quite got mother-in-law jokes; I’m very fond of mine, an Italian mother-in-law being the very best variety, I believe. Although well-acquainted with her zest for life, I have to say, even I was surprised by her gumption on this occasion. On her 68th birthday, I half-jokingly asked her if she’d like to come for a spin on the back of my motorbike. Her answer was instantaneous: “Yes, ok, let’s go!”
Initially, she refused a helmet, but was eventually persuaded to don all the appropriate safety gear: leather jacket, gloves, boots and a full-face helmet. The kids thought it was absolutely hilarious to see their grandmother kitted out in motorcycle gear. “I can’t believe it, nonna is going for a spin on daddy’s motorbike!”
My wife was nervous, seeking assurances in frantic whispers: “don’t take her far, don’t go too fast, don’t lean over too much.” Soon, I too became vaguely fearful – what if she falls off? Though fit and well, she is nearing 70 now, after all. The only person who was completely unflustered was nonna herself. Perhaps this is because she is a woman of such great faith. Whatever about her faith in my abilities as a motorcyclist, she was utterly confident of the necessary spiritual protection and – even in a worst case scenario – also confident in the afterlife. Thankfully, in the event, we did not have to trouble St Peter.
Off we zoomed at all of 30 miles per hour along the broad suburban streets of Raheny – just around the block, as promised. It was not quite the Isle of Man TT, but thrilling enough for a first ride on a motorcycle at the age of 68.
Perhaps the key to remaining youthful into old age is the willingness to try new things, and to cultivate a childlike sense that life remains full of possibility and adventure, if only you are open to it.
One of the great surprises for me since becoming a parent is how incredibly close the bond is between grandparents and grandchildren. Now that grandparents are healthier and younger-seeming than before, they perhaps have more vitality to share with their grandchildren. In the past, grandparents were more like fixtures and fittings. Nowadays they are a huge, active and fun part of kids’ lives.
Our kids are always incredibly excited at the prospect of a grandparental visit and all the fun that brings: There is make and do, outings to the beach, illicit treats, reading stories and helping with very important jobs in the garden.
I asked my two-year-old, what exactly she loves doing with her grandparents. She answered – and I quote her verbatim: “I like … helping to make breakfast and I love drawing and painting. I love it when I go on my scooter and they walk, and going to the playground and I love playing with them and sticking and gluing, and my favourite bit is making jelly and we put it in the fridge so it goes wibble wobble and then you eat it.”
Perhaps the reason the older generation gets on so well with the very young is that both have the time to conspire to engage with the many small joys each day offers, if only we reach out to touch those moments. Or perhaps, as the comedian Sam Levenson had it, “The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy.”