By Linda Gilden
Grandchildren come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and have very different personalities. But they have one thing in common. Ask almost any grandparent how the family is doing and you will hear about the grandchildren. Families these days are diverse and often multicultural. But for whatever reason, when God assembles families, grandparent pride is a big part of the result.
Our first grandchild was adopted. Having never experienced adoption in our family, I wondered how this would work. How would I feel? Would he or she fit into our family? Would it seem odd to have a grandchild who didn’t look like anyone I knew? For those who have wondered about that, it felt perfect! Our first grandchild fits our family in every way.
For many families in years past, grandchildren came over to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s for their weekly visit on Sunday afternoons. Families gathered for a meal or sat under the big oak tree to catch up on the weekly news and spend time together. Bonding took place on the family farm or around the dinner table.
But times have changed and often grandparents find themselves no longer enjoying Sunday afternoon visits with their extended families. They know if they want to see their grandchildren they will have to initiate the visit, volunteer to babysit, or in many cases get on an airplane.
How can grandparents, both near and far, make the most of the time they have with their grandchildren?
Grandparenting is a joy and even though it is hard work, it brings many blessings along the way. Having grandchildren around also means grandparents have more opportunity to pour truth into the lives of precious little ones.
Grandparents are obviously the older generation and certain activities like tag and dodge ball must become spectator sports. But many opportunities remain to be part of the fun such as walks, swimming, and card games. How can grandparents do their part in not just playing and biding time with their grandchildren but making sure that time counts in preparing their grandchildren to grow up?
Loving your grandchildren requires more than a hug now and then. Focus on loving them unconditionally. No strings, judgments, or stipulations attached.
The other day I visited my grandchildren in their home. Our 5-year-old granddaughter was on the couch with her iPad. I sat down beside her and began rubbing her leg. Without looking up or acknowledging my presence, she said, “I love you, Grandma.”
Did that just happen? Of course not. For five years I have been building a relationship with her and she knows how I feel about her. She knows I love spending time with her and that she is special to me. Every time I am with her, I try to do something that says to her, “You are special and I love you very much!”
Jo grew up spending lots of time with her grandmother. She says, “No matter what I decided to do, Grandmother encouraged me. If I wanted to be an artist, she bought paints and brushes. If I wanted to learn to ride a bicycle, she bought me a bike. If I wanted to read, she bought me a book. She knew that having the correct tools would encourage me to pursue my dreams.”
Grandchildren don’t always need fancy equipment to follow their dreams, but a simple show of encouragement and a few words such as “You can do it!” will go a long way. If their interests are something you share or can participate in, all the better. Not only will you enjoy each other’s company but grandchildren often open up and talk more when their hands are focused on something else.
Our grandchildren have plenty to do to prepare for adulthood. They have to work hard in school. Many practice long hours at sports to position themselves for scholarships. Some attend daycare with other children. They rush from activity to activity after school, then arrive home to do homework, eat, and go to bed.
By the time they get to Grandma’s house, they need a little pampering. They are ready for their favorite foods, to play a game for fun, work a puzzle, or just plop down on a blanket under the trees for a few minutes.
Pampering doesn’t mean spoiling your grandchildren. There are still boundaries. Pampering is just another way of making them feel special and loving them on their journey to adulthood.
Rhonda, grandmother of five, teaches Sunday school and believes the best way to instruct your grandchildren is to set a good example. She says, “My youngest granddaughter is in my Sunday school class. She loves the fact that I’m her teacher. ‘I wish I was the only one in your class!’ she said.
“The other week, my 5-year-old grandson from out of state was there. Later his mom told me that as she was scrubbing his feet, he said to her, ‘You are washing my feet just like Jesus did to the disciples.’ She was surprised he knew that and asked him where he learned it. ‘Grandma!’ Really made me proud.”
Grandma Connie says, “I often turn small, ordinary events into life lessons. These are usually brief moments about how to love others, how to react in godly ways, how to think below the surface. We aren’t perfect but we try to live out our faith with our grandchildren.”
Pray for Them
Many young couples need two incomes to make ends meet and are way beyond busy. They don’t get enough sleep and rarely have time to themselves. These parents are living busy lives and that create stress at home.
Whether or not you see your grandchildren on a regular basis, you can pray for them and their parents. Ask your grandchildren how you can pray for them. Often this will open dialogue about things that are going on in their lives. Once you make the commitment to pray for them, let them know you are following through. Ask them occasionally, “How’s it going?”
Pray with them even if it has to be by phone, text, or Skype. Let them know you believe in the power of prayer. Even when they grow older and are out of the home, continue to offer to pray for them.
Grandparents are key players in the success of their grandchildren. It may not seem important to you to attend every event you can but it is important to them. If you are away, write, text, or call often to hear about their activities.
Proverbs 17:6 reminds us that “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” Are you wearing your crown well?
Linda Gilden is a freelance writer thankful for the opportunity to pour into the lives of her six grandchildren who all live near her in South Carolina.