Sebastian Rivera wasn't sure he wanted Dad to leave him at preschool.
"I want my mama," he said. After all, it was just his second week of school and it all seemed so new. "I want my dad."
No worries, though. On this special day, Nonni and Nonno were there to comfort him.
"How about Nonni?" Angela Molini of Stockton asked 3-year-old Sebastian as she gave her grandson a big hug.
The "3s" class at Blessed Beginnings Preschool in Stockton, Calif., celebrated Grandparents Day on September 10 with milk, cookies and a special gift the children had made.
Soon enough Sebastian turned his frown upside down with the help of his grandparents, who had brought another grandson, 1-year-old Delano Berean, along.
"We see our grandchildren every week," Molini said. "We help out by watching them when we're needed. We visit. We have a good time together, don't we?"
Grandparents Day is celebrated with the intent of encouraging kids to benefit from the wisdom and heritage of their grandparents, and enjoy warm, nurturing relationships with them.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that the first Sunday after Labor Day should be known as National Grandparents Day.
In San Joaquin County, Calif., several area schools celebrated the day early by having students bring their grandparents to class. Others are planning celebrations later in the school year.
"I want to thank all our grandparents who are joining us today for milk and cookies," said Laura Alvarez-Munoz, the Young 3s teacher for Blessed Beginnings at First Baptist Church in Stockton. "We just want to celebrate our grandparents and thank them for the faith they instill in their grandchildren. We're so glad to be able to share our morning with you." Three-year-old Ryan Harwell quickly spotted his grandma, Irene Harwell, as she walked into the class. "It's exciting to see all these little children and see their grandparents being involved like this," Harwell said as Ryan climbed up on her lap for a big hug. Does she spoil her grandson? "Maybe a bit," the grandmother of seven said with a chuckle. Deborah Jones, who has five grandchildren, said she thought it was extra nice that the class took time to celebrate grandparents. She was there to visit with her youngest grandchild, 2-year-old Khalid Lanier, but soon had several other children surrounding her to look at a colorful storybook. A similar scene was being played out at other schools this week, while some made plans to invite grandparents another day. Merryhill School in Brookside, Calif., holds a special luncheon to honor their grandparents in the fall, for instance, and at John R. Williams Elementary in Stockton, second-grade teacher Dayle Young and her class will throw a tea in the spring. Young says the nanas and poppas enjoying sharing stories with each other as much as they enjoy visiting their grandkids.
According to Lani Schiff-Ross, executive director of First 5 San Joaquin, a grandparent's love and support has a positive impact on children, particularly in the early years of childhood. And, she notes, grandparents can play a big role in First 5's mission of making the most of a young child's first five years by promoting early learning, healthy eating and exercise habits and other good habits. "I have such wonderful memories of my grandmother growing up. She read to us and she played with us. She instilled in us a love of reading," Schiff-Ross said. "And you know a lot of grandparents grew up in tougher times so they can be great role models for children these days in so many ways. They know what it's like to do without." And, she adds, families without grandparents can always "adopt" a close neighbor or friend to fill that role. According to the Foundation for Grandparenting, when kids develop a strong bond with their grandparents, they feel more stable and even do better in school. No surprise, then, that there are local teachers who welcome grandparents' support by honoring them in the classroom. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are at least 56 million grandparents across the nation. With tough economic times hitting families hard, grandparents are taking on even bigger roles -- helping with child care, taking grandkids to and from school, funding extracurricular sports activities and, in some cases, providing them a safe and secure home.
The Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey found that 6 million children in the U.S. were living with grandparents. In San Joaquin County, there are about 19,685 grandparents living with their grandchildren. Among them, 7,295 grandparents are responsible for caring for their grandkids. Whether grandparents are calling long distance or opening up their arms for a hug, they deserve their day. "We have so much to learn from them," Alvarez-Munoz said. "Let's cherish them while we can."