Grandparenting is certainly one of my favorite seasons of life. I love being with my nine grands, and I love that they are my children’s responsibility. I come away from time with them energized and exhausted. I get to exercise creativity and exhibit calming peace. They renew my youth and reveal how old I am.
To me, grandchildren are one of my most important life investments. I’ve spent a lifetime investing in my own life—discovering and developing into the person God created me to be, doing what he made me for. Similarly, I have spent decades seeking to do the same for my children.
And now I can come alongside my children to contribute to their efforts to do the same for their kiddos.
Grandparenting is a stewardship responsibility and opportunity.
Here are eight ways I invest in my very loved grands:
A true life highlight, for me, is holding a sleeping baby. All other life stops. If someone says, “Can I take her for you?” or Do you want to eat lunch?” or “Can you take this call?”—the answer is always the same. “No thanks. I’m good.”
A couple of weeks ago I was caring for my (probably) last grandbaby. He became fretful, missing his mama. I picked him up, cuddled him, sang to him, talked softly to him, prayed for him. He fell asleep!! And for an hour and a half I contentedly rested on the sofa, cuddling that sleeping baby.
Comforting grands will probably last for the rest of my life. A baby needs comforting when his tummy hurts. A toddler cries when Mommy and Daddy leave. A pre-schooler’s skinned knee requires a kiss. Learning to read can be formidable for some. Middle school is a social nightmare and the academic structure daunting. In high school friends can be unkind and hearts are often broken. And then the future can be frightening. Papa and Jeedoo give comfort.
Usually the second question (after, “What did you bring us?”) my young grandboys would ask when I arrived was, “Will you tell us a story?”
I love telling stories. Sometimes I make them up. Often I let them join in, and a simple story suddenly includes dark woods, wolves and themselves as superheroes. Their favorites, though, were stories from mom or dad’s childhood.
Stories serve so many purposes: Engaging with the child. Expanding imagination. Encouraging creativity. Building on family history. Conveying values.
My husband told our kids they shouldn’t have any more children (he was joking) because we couldn’t afford my grandmother gifting habit. I love giving to my grands, and I believe it a vital part of investing in their lives.
I do give some toys and trinkets, especially things they really want. But these are my most important, often intangible, gifts: Books, for every birthday and every Christmas. Imagination: art supplies, building sets, pretend props, hand puppets, so much more. Action: active playthings, sports equipment, anything to keep them moving. Experiences: outings, the beach, mountains, theme parks—Gatorland was a favorite. Time: things to do with me, quiet moments, face time, the time they don’t know about when I pray.
My children all love adventure—and it seems their children do too. We have a family vacation every other summer, and it always includes some adventures. Even with babies and toddlers along, the majority have been able, over the years, to raft wild white water, ride horses on steep mountain trails, zip across Colorado canyons, hike mountains, and this past summer, zipline across the Royal Gorge.
Other adventures have occurred at the beach, sitting on a gator, holding a python, getting soaked at Animal Kingdom River Rapids, skimming across a swamp on an airboat. Exploring museums and aquariums and caves, learning to fish. And more.
When they are young, we listen to their chatter, even if we can’t understand a word, and respond with smiles and affirming words. As their verbal skills improve, so must our listening skills. Ask questions, hear their answers, engage in evolving conversation.
Then when they are older they might open up, share hearts and hurts, desires and dreams. You might be the one they come to talk to about faith, the future, family. Because you listened.
Family love can be assumed. Some of us speak it often, and children are taught to speak love to their grandparents. But do we live out love to them. Do they sense it is more than words? The apostle John urges us, “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
Will we give them priority over our online activities (she said to herself) or our TV watching? Will we go to their sports events in sweltering summer months or icy winter days? Will we give them attention, or gifts they really desire? Will we intentionally seek to guide them into truth and wisdom?
The writer of Hebrews invites us: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
We are called into relationship with God via grace, and we are urged to pass that grace on to everyone we can. Including our grands. This will happen most effectively as they observe grace in our lives: speaking truth with kindness, keeping peace in stressful times, forgiving those who hurt us, sacrificing our comfort for others. And, of course, sharing the love of God with them.
Oh, how we desire to see our grands grow into strong, healthy, wise, loving men and women, with good character, seeking God first, becoming the persons God has created them to be, doing the good works God has prepared for them. We want to be good stewards of the lives entrusted to us.
We certainly move in that direction as we do all the actions listed here. But that is no guarantee of the rich legacy we yearn for. We must go to that throne of grace and beseech the one who can weave our efforts with our children’s efforts and the responses of beloved grandchildren into the likeness of Christ, living in love and grace, serving others, loving God.
We must pray for them. Often. Specifically. About everything.
What about you? How do you steward the future of your grands?
C2018 Judy Douglass