As I send another baby gift to one of my children’s friends, I am amazed that we are now entering this phase of life. I am not yet a member of some of my generation’s elite club known as Grandparents. However, I have watched numerous grandparents interact with their grandchildren. I had the company of three grandparents during my childhood. And my own children spent most of their childhoods within one state with four grandparents and several great-grandparents. They have special memories of going to the beach for several summers with one set of grandparents, and riding the tractor and petting kittens with the others.
Several of our favorite mentors have been great role models. At retirement, they moved to be in the same town with their only child’s family and thoughtfully wove themselves into the fabric and daily lives of their grandchildren. Jack hung a special swing at the family cabin, he took fresh doughnuts to his grandsons every weekend, and he and Mary attended every ballgame, concert and school event. Most importantly, they encouraged their grandsons’ church attendance and spiritual lives. The consistent message to their grandchildren seemed to be: “You matter. You are precious. You will become God’s men.”
Grandparenting might be welcomed as one of life’s chances for a “Do Over.” When I think about all the mistakes I made with my children, how the years’ rushed by, what I have learned about priorities, I welcome the thought of blessing my family with another opportunity to love and leave a legacy. Perhaps you will think of some other Grandparent Gifts to be gained or given for this list:
The Gift of Time: Toddlers and grandparents both need a place and space to walk a bit slower than the rest of the world. While everyone else rushes, grandparents can be a safe place to “exhale,” kick back and have the time to talk, examine, play, hug and nap. Because they are going a bit slower, grandchildren and grandparents have many opportunities.
The Gift of Sharing Stories: what child doesn’t squeal with delight to learn of their own parents’ childhood stories of mischief? With fondness, I remember my husband’s grandmother telling stories to her great grandchildren about traveling in a covered wagon with her family. Grandparents are the historical society for the family and for life before the parents were born. Who else remembers long dead family members? This provides children with a sense of history, belonging and context in an increasingly fragmented world. In addition, when grandparents listen, they often hear the fanciful and highly creative tales that grandchildren can “practice” with someone.
The Gift of Understanding the Life Cycle: grandparents are a great learning tool for children to appreciate and become more patient with all stages of life. Today’s grandparents are usually active and this is an encouragement for the future. However, this is where many of us come to examine first hand, dentures, hearing aids, wrinkled skin, and canes. Grandparents’ bodies are a bit different from people in the parents’ generation. Not everyone is young, tall or muscular, and yet they can be valued.
The Gift of a Spiritual Legacy: we have the example of many grandparents in the Bible, such as the generational scoundrels of Old Testament patriarchs and kings. However, it is in 2 Timothy 1:5 where Paul reminds us of the faith that first dwelt in a grandmother, then a mother, and finally in a young man. The godly example of faith in the face of death can impress young people with the faith and courage that they need for living. They do not often see that displayed in a jaded world. Knowing that their grandparents have confidence that the family will someday be united in Heaven, is a gift of love to “stay the course.”
The Gift of Reassurance: as the past peels away for grandparents and their immediate family members and friends die, they need the hope and blessing of knowing that grandchildren will carry on their legacies. Rediscovering the simple joys of life through the eyes of little family members can be a good medicine for aging. What a wonderful plan, that at a time in life when there is so much loss, beautiful precious babies enter the world!
The Gift of Unconditional Love: this example of God’s love is supposed to come from our parents; however, having a back-up plan in a sinful world is another blessing. Parents can be tired and distracted. Grandparents may not feel needed, appreciated or huggable in any other role. Hugging and forgiving sometimes comes a bit easier for those who realize that children grow up and life is indeed very short.