As I mother, I felt compelled to read every Christian book on parenting I could find. I was the chief babysitter for my five younger siblings (my youngest sister was born when I was 17), so I wasn’t inexperienced with children. But the responsibility of having my own weighed on me heavily. I didn’t feel I knew what I was doing, and I didn’t want to ruin them for life.
I haven’t felt quite as compelled as a grandparent. Perhaps having a supporting rather than a major role relieves some of the pressure. Maybe I’ve grown in the Lord and in following His guidance enough now that, even though I haven’t arrived and am not perfect in any category, I don’t feel I need to find a book for every issue (though I do still read a lot). And much of grandparenting seems common sense on top of the same love and courtesy shown to one’s own children.
The first two books I did read by grandparents to grandparents were major disappointments—not the grandparenting advice, but the theological basis of the authors.
Becoming a grandparent is living with eternity in mind—all the time. It means going the extra mile (or more, many more) for the sake of your grandchildren. It will entail sacrifice of every sort. Time. Money. Energy. Sleep. But every sort of giving up and giving away the best of what we have and are is all good . . . in the light of eternity.
Grandparenting is all about bending the knee before our Lord Jesus Christ and asking him for our marching orders. Then we get up from our knees and get busy loving our grandchildren in ways they will remember, value, and appreciate (p. 2).
Grace upon grace. Unconditional love. Total acceptance. Open arms. These are only a few of the attitudes and actions that make grandparents so different from folks who assume a casual role as a grandparent. Which would you rather be: a seemingly insignificant bystander who shows up now and then with a gift but with two closed fists that demand affection from the grandchildren before letting go of the goods; or someone who views every opportunity to interact with grandchildren as having potential eternal impact and takes their love as it comes, without offense? (p. 45).
Howe reminds us that our empty nest years are not about finally having “me time.” We never retire from being a godly influence, especially to our own family.
She highlights the primary roles of prayer, seeking guidance from God, and following the parents’ lead and preferences.
She shares numerous tips and truths. Just a few:
- Hospitality is not just something we exercise towards those outside our families. We make time and place for our adult children and their families as well.
- Grandparenting is not about spoiling or over-indulging.
- We can provide a safe haven when parents fail, as in cases of drug addiction and abuse. Grandparents provide tough love and step in to call authorities in these cases if need be.
- We need to remember each child is unique.
- We can make special memories and teaching opportunities out of everyday occasions and tasks.
- Though sometimes we need to exercise authority, “I never need to yell, demean, or demand. Rather, I can use gentle but firm words to steer them toward making good choices” (p. 29).
Each chapter is only about four pages long and ends with a “take-away action thought,” a prayer, and a few “grand ideas” for how to implement the concepts from that chapter. The thirty chapters could be read one a day over a month, but they’re short enough to read more if desired. I generally read two in one sitting.
To be totally honest, the grandparenting vs. grandparenting repetition became a little wearing after a while. On the other hand, that was probably the most succinct way to make the distinction between casual, aloof, or insensitive grandparents and involved, attentive, spiritually-minded grandparents.
Though I don’t think I learned anything earth-shatteringly new from this book, the gentle nudges, thoughtful reminders, and spiritual focus were all helpful. I’d recommend this book for any stage of grandparenting, perhaps even as a gift to new or upcoming grandparents.