Rich smells of onion, and garlic, and potatoes. Fresh rosemary and flour stains on my t-shirts. The sound of a knife hitting the cutting board and the words, “not too much.” The kneading of dough and boiling of root vegetables and salt. Preparing for a holiday meal. Wet kisses on my cheeks. That is how I’ll remember my grandma.

Many of my fondest childhood memories were learning to cook alongside my grandmother. She taught me how to make perogies and latkes on the holidays. Before I was old enough to enter the kitchen, it was mudpies in the backyard. I’d use freshly watered dirt from the garden and add leaves from the overflowing plant collection in the patio. There was magic in the way she cooked. The way she chopped and boiled and fried was the smell of coming home. Still today, I find myself repeating her recipes in my head when I’m preparing a family meal. The memories we made had a lifelong impact. Through her cooking and stories, I was able to discover a part of myself by learning about my culture and heritage. I felt a sense of belonging and comfort that was unlike anything else in my life.

Spending time at my grandparents’ house was a huge part of my childhood. My grandpa would help me with my homework and teach me about my culture. My grandmother would teach me how to cook and grow food.

Grandparents offer an important part to our childhood that is unlike anything else. According to an article from Wilmington Parent, “studies show that as many as 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren feel that their grandparents influenced their beliefs and values. A child’s perspective of what constitutes a healthy, normal relationship is shaped by the relationship that he or she holds with a grandparent. Through regular contact, a sense of emotional intimacy, and unwavering support, children can experience what a true, positive relationship should look like.”

The relationships that children develop as they age are vital to their growth. The consistency of having a grandparent active in a child’s life has proven to show many benefits in early childhood development. Wilmington Parent also states that, “a 2014 study at Boston College found that ‘an emotionally close relationship between grandparent and grandchild is associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations.’ For kids, having grandparents around means having the perfect companions to play with and have fun. Grandparents are some of the best partners when it comes to using creativity and imagination to discover the wonders of life. And in turn, most grandparents truly love their role. According to the American Grandparents Association, 72% of grandparents think being a grandparent is the single most important and satisfying thing in their life.”

This mutually beneficial relationship has a positive impact on both child and grandparent. The relationship for the child is unlike their relationship with a parent. Grandparents provide emotional support that is beneficial to the child. The child can grow and learn in an environment that is comforting yet outside of their daily life. Through storytelling and sharing of heritage, values, and beliefs, the child can feel a sense of inclusivity and belonging.

According to an article from Grandparents Law, “the Oxford study found that grandparents play a high-level role in the emotional and behavioral development of children. When grandparents are present, children have fewer emotional problems, and they are less likely to be involved in negative behavioral situations. Grandparents’ involvement helps children in a number of ways. For example, they often help in the development of children’s problem-solving skills. When family disruption occurs, grandparents can become a stabilizing force for young people. In times of turmoil, including after loss of a parent, a grandparent can provide the material and emotional support, reducing the complications a child might encounter.”

The experiences that we have with our grandparents make for lifelong memories and positive developmental impacts. Not only are there important benefits for the child, but also for the grandparents. The memories that we create and stories that we pass down are part of our shared human experience. When we share stories of our childhood and of those who were a part of it, we can commemorate their lives and continue their legacy. Though I am so grateful for the memories I was able to create with my grandparents, I know that not everyone had the privilege of having grandparents in their life. There are so many people that impact our lives as children and influence our lives as adults. As they say, “it takes a village.” So, if you haven’t already today, take the time to thank the storytellers, the teachers, the caretakers, the make-believers, and anyone else who helped shape who you are today.