Written by Joanne Beckley
Truly, our grandchildren’s world is much different from when we were tikes. Yesterday’s activities, advice and even customs and conventions of a community have not always remained constant. Today, very few children have their grandparents living next door or even across town. Yes, I realize that times have changed, but the need for grandparents has not changed. We may have changed the how, when, and where we manage our skills, but grand-parenting is just as valuable and necessary as it has always been down through the years.
Society offers a number of alternatives in rearing children, but children need a pattern, something that will project a clear direction for them. They need several reference points of direction from the past that give them the stability to reach into the future. Parents can offer one source and grandparents can provide the another. Then there are uncles and aunts, and even great-grandparents who can provide yet more.
It’s a great big world out there, but all too often it only offers hostility to too many children. We as grandparents can help to remove the sense of aloneness, even hopelessness, that they experience and provide a perception of who they are and where they belong in the scheme of things. Fortunately, there are some really great grandparents out there and as a granny I’ve been gleaning all the good they have to offer. Perhaps you too might benefit from the following thoughts.
What can grandparents offer? Family security and a sense of history. Someone to talk to who is on your side. Someone to stand and cheer when you do well. Someone who can give that little extra when the budget is too tight. Someone who will listen when mom and dad won’t or cannot.
But grand-parenting requires hard work. We don’t just slide into it when little junior is born. It requires doing some homework BEFORE junior comes along. (And here you thought you were going to retire?!)
1. Good grandparents have the wisdom of God’s word already tucked under their belts. It is the wisdom that has been collected through increased knowledge of God’s word, understanding it, and putting it into daily practice while they reared their own children in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18; Eph.4:15. See also Deut.6:2ff and Psalm 78:4-8). When grandparents do not have this to offer their grandchildren, it is like being unable to give them a view of who they really are, of all that life is meant to be, and a beautiful hope of eternity with their Father in heaven.
2. Good grandparents see the excitement of each new day. They have a sense of needing to reach out for new experiences, new thoughts, and new goals. Our grandchildren get excited over the smallest things – we can too! This means, we need to avoid voicing aloud our comforting routines, such as: “Don’t bring the grandkids over until after Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy.” You have just negated your welcome.
3. Good grandparents understand they are not a back-up mom or substitute dad. We need to look at mom and dad’s busy schedule, learn about the kids’ sports and who their friends are and find the areas that are lacking that we can fill. We need to be adaptable and available. We have less unfulfilled needs to be purchased – so we can even sink some of our funds into higher telephone bills – or learn computer skills! After all, that’s where the kids are these days!
4. Good grandparents are willing to take a chance on being misunderstood by son or daughter, daughter-in-law or son-in-law. There will be times when we make mistakes. But we have learned (see point #1) the value of saying, “I’m sorry. How can I correct the problem?” Obviously, the only way to avoid these kinds of problems is to completely ignore our grandchildren – and we simply cannot afford this as an option. Not if we want to please God.
I like to read Titus 2:2-5 in light of grand-parenting. It is our Lord’s guidelines for mature citizens in His kingdom. Let us take the time to go down the list:
TO GRANDDADS (These are leadership qualities from which grandchildren will truly benefit.)
1. Temperate – This means we should require self-control of the body and tongue, a soberness that isn’t attracted to the empty offers of this world.
2. Dignified – How serious is serious? It means we are fully aware that heaven is watching. It means amidst all the enjoyment we have with our grandchildren, they will still recognize the respect we inspire and develop a desire in themselves to copy or live up to our example.
3. Sensible – This is a granddad who has his mind under control. He has laid aside “every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,” and is running “with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb.12:1).
4. Sound in faith – Grandfathers (and grandmothers!) Who are firmly grounded in the faith, steadfast, and not moved from the hope of the gospel (Col.1:23). We rejoice that we have found comfort and peace (2 Cor.13:11).
5. Sound in love – The longer we live in a sinful world the easier it is to slip into bitterness, criticism, and fault finding. Our grandchildren need just the opposite from us. Because we have had to rise from our own faults, mistakes and failures, we have developed a greater understanding of sympathy and tolerance. We need to offer unselfish love just as God offers patience and tender care for us.
6. Sound in endurance (patience, longsuffering, perseverance) – Maturity carries strength, the ability to stand firm throughout each NEW trial, temptation, and heartache. We are ready to face and meet the challenges life throws at us. True, our bodies are growing weaker, but our spirits must grow ever stronger. We can’t afford to back off now or relax our vigil. Our souls depend on it – and so do our grandchildren.
1. Reverent in behavior – The apostle Peter described reverence well: “holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands” (1 Pet.3:5). Reverence includes offering honour and obedience to God and therefore to become a servant to one another here on earth. Our willing submission to serve continues even as a grandmother to those who need us.
2. Not malicious gossips – I find it interesting that the apostle Paul included this requirement of grandmothers. Obviously we can fall into this very real temptation – because we just KNOW so-and-so is not really trying and we KNOW just how she/he should fix the problem! Someone truly said – “Gossip is a game based on our own pride.” Our grandchildren need to see humility in action, in word and deed.
3. Not enslaved to much wine – Obviously there was a problem among the older women of Paul’s day. Perhaps a hopelessness that sought a solution from the bottle. Maybe even loneliness caused by widowhood. Today, we could include depression, feeling that we are not really needed anymore. Or boredom because we have forgotten how to live. Today, we also need to consider prescription drugs that cause dependence when not monitored correctly. Our grandchildren need us to be there for them. Even if they don’t exhibit any interest in being in our presence, they need to KNOW we are there for them. Let us keep our minds working!
4. Teaching what is good – The apostle Paul saw every older woman of God as a teacher of good. What is good? Philippians 4:8 contains an excellent list, and every day presents new opportunities to practice the same. Grandmothers can play a major role in bringing her grandchildren to Christ.
So, Grandpa and Grandma, let us go to the phone right now and call our grandchildren and end the conversation with “I love you.” Let us write them, one at a time. One suggestion that got me excited, was to purchase a small address book or even use one of those small photo “brag” books. Collect and insert the names, address, and phone numbers, clothing sizes, hobbies, favourite foods, etc of all your grandchildren. Add a picture or two. Keep track of activities, interests in school, personal needs – whatever comes to your mind that will help you to stay in touch with each child, whether 2 or 20 years old. Then, when you write a letter, or make that phone call or video call on your computer, or when you are shopping, or on a trip, or overseas . . . you are prepared! Staying abreast of what is going on and what needs our grandchildren may have is hard work! We need to provide whenever need when an opportunity presents itself.
Go Granny Go!