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Celebrating family

  • Stacey Solt/Times News Benjamin Hanitch, 3, enjoys being surrounded by his grandparents. From left are Ron and Karen Smith, Kathy and Bill Sherman, and Terry Hanitsch.
    Stacey Solt/Times News Benjamin Hanitch, 3, enjoys being surrounded by his grandparents. From left are Ron and Karen Smith, Kathy and Bill Sherman, and Terry Hanitsch.
Published September 05. 2013 05:00PM

The birth of a child makes two people a parent and a few lucky people grandparents.

These special people are celebrated each year on Grandparents' Day, the first Sunday after Labor Day.

"I used to tell my kids that I didn't want to be a grandparent for a long time," said Karen Smith of Lehighton, a grandmother of three.

"My kids graduated and settled down pretty quickly. They didn't listen to me and I'm so glad that they didn't," she said, watching her grandson Benjamin Hanitch, 3, bop around the room during a Labor Day picnic.

Smith wasn't the only grandparent doting on Benjamin that day.

The lucky boy, who lives in Albrightsville, was surrounded by family grandparents Karen and Ron Smith, the parents of JenniLynn Hanitch, and Kathy and Bill Sherman and Terry Hanitch, the parents of Chad Hanitch.

"Ben's fortunate to have so many grandparents who love him so much," said Kathy Sherman. "It's amazing, knowing that if it weren't for us, he wouldn't be here. Our kids wouldn't be here, and neither would the grandkids.

"You just hope that your family will grow and be healthy," she added.

Each of the grandparents has their own favorite activities with Ben, from swimming and playing outside to letting him "walk" the Shermans' German Shepherd.

"I was able to enjoy the kinds of things that I did with my children reading and writing and learning to use the potty. It's so much fun," said Kathy. "If you make yourself available to that child, they will always remember you. These are times that they will never forget."

Ron Smith noted that while he had good grandparents, the sheer size of his family his own grandparents had 14 children, and he has nine brothers and sisters prevented them from having a highly active role in each grandchild's life.

He was particularly influenced by his own father's relationship with his children.

"We had a different kind of relationship with our grandparents. I really take after my dad. He was so close to all of my kids," he said.

Just a few miles away, Ruth Kindrew is admiring her wall of family photos in her Palmerton home.

She is known as Grammy to her 16 grandchildren and step-grandchildren, all between the ages of 7 months and 25 years.

Her husband, Jim, is fondly referred to as Pappy, Pop-Pop, and Happy Jim (a play on "Pappy Jim").

Kindrew noted that as a grandparent she can focus on fun and creating memories, instead of discipline.

"We have a little more money than we did as parents, so we can do things with the kids, and for the kids, that we couldn't do before," she said.

Kindrew fondly remembers going to the fair and church socials with her own grandparents.

"It just amazes me that I'm the Grammy now," she said. "It's funny to see your kids as parents. My baby has a baby."

When she's unable to see family members in person, Kindrew uses social media to track their progress and keep in touch more often.

"I just love it. All seven kids are on Facebook so it's a good way to keep in touch. I see pictures of them all the time," she said. "This one gets perfect attendance, or that one is starting soccer. It's great."

Kindrew's youngest grandchild, Dalton, is 7 months old. He is the son of Kindrew's youngest child, Megan Fredericks.

"I'm the youngest of four, and I always wanted kids," said Megan, who noted that having a child can make relationships stronger and seem more special.

"I thought my mom and I had a close relationship, but I didn't realize how close we were until I had a baby," she said.

The pair even share a song: "Angel Baby."

"That's our song," said Fredericks. "I sing it to Dalton when he's cranky or ready for bed, and it's the same song that my mom sang to me."

Looking back through the years, Kindrew noted that her favorite memories come from Sunday dinners both those that her own grandparents provided, and now those dinners when the entire family gathers today.

It wasn't too long ago, she noted, that her children were lining up car seats filled with sleeping babies, all slumbering to the noise of a large family.

Perhaps this is the true purpose of Grandparents' Day celebrating the joy of family, and honoring those who have made it possible.

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