By Peggy Wall and Barbara Hamilton
Society has done a good job of convincing us that the aging process gives only bumps and bruises, illness and injury, wrinkles and worry, but I have discovered it affords us a marvelous gift called “grandparenting.” It’s all about establishing relationships and bringing together generations.
When I ask my children about my role as a grandparent, they answer, “Just be there for our kids like our grandparents were for us.” Reminiscing over precious memories of times my kids spent with their grandparents, I know exactly how important that connection is. There are so many things I would like to give the grandchildren, but I realize my time and attention are the best gifts. As my life has become somewhat tamer, I have time to sit and not only talk with them, but also listen to what they have to say. Often, I pull out a book instead of a Kindle, and as the pages are turned, the words become magical.
When we’re together, I have to make the most of the time I spend with my grandchildren. I enjoy sharing what I love, and at the same time, learning what they love and finding some common ground of understanding and appreciation of the other. At times that requires some serious patience, and often it can be quite humorous if not downright comical. Think Scrabble vs. Xbox.
As a grandparent, I find myself passing down the same life lessons I taught my own children, the ones like faith and honesty, good behavior and citizenship, self-sufficiency and character. And my life’s example must always match my words, or else they’re just that—words. I also catch myself praying for my grandchildren daily just as I always have for my children—praying that God will hold them close, protect them, and give them the courage and strength to be all He wants them to be.
Being a grandparent allows me to see the world in a whole new way if I listen to my grandchildren and appreciate their creativity and unique way of doing things—and, if I don’t put them down every time they express themselves whether in dress, speech, or ideas. They are giving me a second chance to realize that some of the behaviors and appearances I couldn’t overlook as a parent, I can now smile about and know they are only for a season.
Grandchildren like mine have energy and originality. I like that. I want to soak it up. With them, I feel like my heart can stay young forever, and I have the freedom to act like a kid without fear of being accused of regressing to my second childhood. That is so liberating, and I love it! I love their contagious enthusiasm. I look forward to being with them, and I want them to know it.
But I also have to give them a sense of what is real in life and what is not real because today, the two can amazingly, but sadly, look so much like the other. Once I told the story, “The Gingerbread Man” to a youngster who struggled to make a connection between what was real and what was make-believe.
When I saw her the next day, I showed her a white bag. “Do you know what’s inside this bag?” I asked. She shook her head, “no.” “It’s a real gingerbread man,” I explained. Taking him from the sack, I continued, “It’s a real gingerbread man, but he’s only a cookie. The story I told you yesterday is make-believe. This cookie can’t talk or run; he’s only a cookie.” The same concept is true for older kids, too. Whether they are children or teenagers, today’s grandchildren can be easily confused about life’s realities.
I have found that one of my greatest responsibilities with my grandchildren is to teach them that Jesus is real and not just a story. I want more than anything to help them understand how He came to us as a baby, grew as a child and teenager, and later became our Savior. I believe God called grandparents, as much as parents, to live out Jesus before these young lives, to answer their questions, and help them understand how important it is to trust God completely.
I know one day they’ll forget the movies we saw, the games we played, the gifts and the toys, but I hope they’ll remember the hugs and kisses, the simple text message, “I love you,” with a smiley-face, the prayers prayed over them, and my heart’s desire for them to know the Lord and depend on Him every day in every situation. To me, it isn’t the “job” of grandparenting; it’s the “joy,” and I’d say that’s quite a gift!
Peggy Wall and Barbara Hamilton are making and storing precious grandmother memories and having the time of their lives along the way.