USA TODAY (9/5/14) featured a poll “What makes a ‘great’ grandparent?”
- 39% teaching/passing on values
- 36% not interfering with parental role
- 21% maintaining one’s health
- 17% not overindulging grandkids
- 7% embracing new technology
If I were to summarize with a spiritual lens, I could affirm that grandparents have a unique and awesome opportunity to teach biblical values and pass them on to yet another generation in creative and committed ways by walking, sitting, lying down (Deut 6:7). Bonds between grandparents and their grandchildren require an investment of time and energy as well as creativity and resources. In Judaism, the family was the primary bridge for transmitting faith. Forefathers who “walked their talk” are invaluable for preparing the next generation to do the same.
How can grandparents enrich the next generation?
- Pass to them with purpose a strong faith. Reinforce godly lessons taught by parents and other mentoring adults as active partners in spiritual nurture of the younger generation (2 Tim 1:4-5). Consider practical ways beyond a Christ-honoring life. For example, my mother-in-love read through and marked different Bibles so she could give us a Bible that showed her faithful reading and inspired insights in the margins. Spend time with your grandchildren doing things they enjoy doing and talking to them about what is important to them—being a presence in their lives!
- Preserve memories from the past. My mother wrote her life’s story, sharing vignettes and anecdotes from our family across the years. She covered all but the last decade of her life, including photographs and special documents. Each child and grandchild received a copy. What a treasure! I am reminded that we as grandparents can be living memory albums, a unique collage and even historical narrative of the past. Remembrance of the past helps to build the future.
- Security for the present is enhanced. Who has a better opportunity to demonstrate unconditional love by investing time? Children should be included in the cycle of life, which is a mixture of excitement and drudgery, privilege and responsibility, activity and waiting, choosing your favorite thing to do or participating in something less exciting selected by someone else. The fact that they are part of your life gives a sense of belonging and thus a confidence in the future. How blessed you are to be available to “stand in the gap” when needed, and how reassuring to your grandchildren to know that you are available in a crisis as well as eager to share the joys and celebrations!
- Nothing is more rewarding than being God’s instrument for enrichment. Grandparents often can and do give beyond what parents are able to do or give. My mother-in-love wrote a collection of short stories in which our children and we their parents, as well as imaginary pets, were featured. She painted portraits of the pets and found stuffed facsimiles of the animals to enhance the “Fodsdick and Tertullian ” My parents planned unique adventures—fishing trip, day at their lake home, ride in Papa’s plane, special cards and letters throughout the year. My husband and I love weaving our granddaughters into journeys whenever possible—sometimes planned well in advance but often on the spur of the moment—hopefully creating some special memories and in the process introducing them to the world in unique ways.
- Leaving a legacy is the finale. It takes at least three generations to become a grandparent. Time and experiences prepare grandparents for leaving a legacy of faith: a personal possession, a hand-crafted item into which you have poured your own creativity and energy (as my paternal grandmother did for me), a financial gift for education (as my husband’s grandparents did for us and as my parents did for our children), putting your voice on tape or your likeness on video to read a story or just leave a personal message.
You do not work yourself out of a job with the passing of years and changes in relationships. Rather, you extend your energies and adapt your responsibilities for each season of life. Parenting becomes “grander” in this lifetime pursuit of extending the generations. I fully intend to be a better grandparent than I was a parent! Why? I have had more experiences; I know myself—strengths and weaknesses—better; I know more about preparing children to live in this world and its secular culture. How? I can stand ready to share duties and responsibilities with the parents of my darling granddaughters. I can focus more on the fun and joy of it. I have more opportunity for unstructured time with my grandchildren than I did with my children. Their parents handle the mundane basics; I can explore the creative ways to enrich their lives. I can have a close-up view of watching my Abigail and Rebekah change from what some outsiders may see as ordinary granddaughters into extraordinary young women. I can be a cheerleader watching as they strive for and reach their greatest potential. And perhaps in this process the Lord will bless me by allowing me to be a part of that adventure!
Grandparents, you are being called to active duty! Your job is still preparing the next generation. You have the time; you will find the energy and creativity; you will sacrifice to provide resources; and most of all, you have the seasoned faith to link hands with the Lord Himself to raise up a God-fearing, Christ-honoring generation!