Be Your Own Unique Style of Grandparent

Be Your Own Unique Style of Grandparent

I’ve only been a grandparent for eight and a half years, and I only have one grandchild. So I am not an expert. I’m still learning how best to navigate this phase of life.

But one piece of advice I read in a forgotten source has stayed with me. The writer had a granddaughter whose other, wealthier grandmother loved to take the child shopping.

The writer’s budget was a little tighter, and she couldn’t afford many shopping forays. So she faced a dilemma when her granddaughter wanted to be taken shopping. This writer’s solution was to say, “Your other grandmother is the shopping grandma. I’m the baking grandma.” She and her granddaughter spent fun time in the kitchen.

I thought that was such a neat idea. We don’t have to compete with the child’s other grandparents or even parents. We don’t have to follow Pinterest or Instagram influencers, though we can learn from them. We can grandparent in our own unique style and way.

And we don’t even need to specialize in one area. I had hoped to be the reading grandma, but my grandson isn’t particularly interested in reading when he is here. Though we can share our interests, it’s best not to push them. It’s better to share their interests.

We’ve done a few crafty things together, colored, played games, baked cookies. But mostly I just want to be available to him, to listen to him, to let him know that his grandfather and I love him very much.

I only had two grandparents growing up. My father’s father died before I was born. My mother’s mother passed away when I was four, so I have only hazy memories of her.

My mother’s father was a big tease and had a distinctive laugh. My mom would sometimes make us kids coffee–really just a lot of sugar and milk with just a little coffee. But we felt so grown up when we drank it. When my grandfather saw us drinking our special brew, he would tease, “If you drink coffee, hair will grow on your chest.” My grandfather had a lot of “If-then” predictions, and I knew he was teasing–but I still checked sometimes just to be sure.

We lived with him for a few years when I was young. For a while, he drove me to a friend’s house in the mornings so I could ride to school with them (I assume everyone else’s work schedules didn’t allow them to take me). It seemed like every time we were in the car together, two songs always came on the radio: “Mairzy Doats” and “Mr. Lonely.” I can’t think of those songs without thinking of my grandfather.

When we moved to another city, he would come to visit and always brought Dunkin Donuts. No matter when I woke up in the mornings, I could hear him and my mom talking in the kitchen over a cup of coffee.

He married again, and I don’t remember much about his second wife. Not long after they married, she developed dementia. She was very dependent on him. Friends urged him to place her in what we would now call respite care so that he could go hunting with them, an activity he loved. When he came back, the facility she was in had her tied down in a chair (I assume because she tried to wander off, looking for him. Restraints like this are not allowed now). He said, “Never again,” brought her home, and cared for her the rest of his life. When she died, he lamented to my mom that he didn’t know why the good Lord gave him two good women and then took them away.

He was also heavily involved in the Boy Scouts, and we used to visit their Jamboree every year and see him.

My father’s mother had kids in Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama, and she divided her time among them. The “Galloping Gourmet” was a thing then, and we called my grandmother the “galloping grandma” due to her many travels around the Gulf coast.

For a couple of summers, I got to travel with her to visit relatives. I enjoyed the time with her as well as getting to know aunts and uncles and cousins I didn’t see often otherwise.

When she lived nearby, she often had me over to spend the night. She loved to read, and one of my favorite memories is of us sitting up in separate twin beds in her room, reading before bedtime.

She loved to crochet. Almost any time she was sitting still, she was working on a crochet project. I especially liked the trim she crocheted around doilies and handkerchiefs. I never did learn crochet, but I like to think my love of crafts and needle arts was inspired by her. She and my aunt also made clothes for me in my childhood.

I don’t recall that she had a garden, but her sister, my aunt Jewel, had a large one. They loved fresh vegetables.

When my grandmother was away, she would write me letters. My first forays into writing consisted of composing letters to her. We wrote back and forth all her life.

She could be a little harsh in her discipline. But we knew that she loved us.

I don’t remember either of my grandparents giving me direct spiritual instruction. But I knew they both loved God in their own way. My grandfather and aunt took me to the Lutheran church in my earliest years, and I think he was responsible for my attending a Lutheran school in first and second grade. When I was with my grandmother, it was understood that we’d be attending her Baptist church. Their faith shaped their morals, values, and conversation.

I look forward to making memories with my grandson, Timothy. But most of all, I hope I can have the same influence as the biblical Timothy’s grandmother had on him. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5). Later, Paul admonished Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

God gives grandparents responsibility to pass his truth along to the next generation:

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children (Deuteronomy 4:9).

One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness (Psalm 145:4-7).

They say that most of what we teach our children is “caught” rather than “taught.” I think that’s probably especially true of grandchildren. We won’t have as much directly instructive time with them as their parents do. But hopefully, through our love, our lives, our testimony, and our words, we can have a great influence on them for God. That’s my prayer.

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come (Psalm 71:17-18).

Psalm 71:17-18

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

31 thoughts on “Be Your Own Unique Style of Grandparent

  1. this is beautiful. I do hope I get to be a grandma one day. I cherish my times with my paternal grandmother and grandfather. We didn’t know our maternal grandfather (long story but mom was smart to keep us away) and our maternal grandmother died when i was only 10 after being in a mental hospital for severe depression/PTSD due to all kinds of bad things…I do know she loved Jesus and is in heaven from what my mother has told me. My paternal grandparents were good Catholics but i don’t think they had a personal relationship with the Lord. I loved my time with them though. We did a lot of gardening together….and learned to bake and cook.

  2. This is really good. I’ve had similar thoughts — I’m pretty quiet in nature, and have noticed that when others are around, acting silly and outgoing, it can be hard for me to “compete.” I’ve had the thought that I wonder if I’ll be able to compete with my hopeful future grandkids’ other grandparents — although that’s an awful thought to have. Just being honest. I do love the idea of trying to choose a “niche” that we can relate to kids with, even though our plans may not pan out (I think of you and Timothy and reading, and my mom hoping to stitch with her grandkids when none of them seem interested in that). For sure I hope to pass on faith lessons. We will see. I loved your memories of your own grandparents too.

    • Sometimes with both our kids and grandkids, we have to set aside what we hoped for them and trust God to work in and through them His own way. I had always hoped my own kids would be more musical. Especially the few years we were homeschooling, it seemed like all homeschooled kids played one or several instruments! But, though they all took piano, none of them has carried on with it.

      I don’t think much of competing with my grandson’s other grandparents—they are out of state, and when they are here, I try to stay back and give them plenty of time together. But I think we have a tendency to compare ourselves with others in general. I did that more as a mother than a grandmother, but in either case, we just have to be and do what God wants us to.

  3. This was beautiful and encouraging, and a good reminder to be what God calls ME to be, not to compete. I’m very blessed to be Nonny to two beautiful granddaughters, and I want to have the most positve influence possible on them and be faithful in leading them closer to Jesus through reading or cuddles or having fun times together or whatever. I miss my baby granddaughter so much now that we live farther away, but my own parents and grandparents set me an awesome example of how to love grandchildren well and keep strong relationships with them despite the miles between.

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  5. Enjoyed so much Ms. Barabara. I will perhaps be blessed with a look back upon my life and be shown all those who came after me whom I influenced or encouraged with my faith. Conversely, I fear I must also look back and see all those opportunities to influence for God that I let slip through my fingers.

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  7. i learned long ago that i couldn’t compete with the other grandparents. it just wasn’t who we are. the more i relaxed into being who God shaped us to be, the less i wondered what the other grandparents were doing.

    it’s been a wonderful ride and i love this teenage season the gang is in. it warms my heart to see the people they’re becoming. i just wish they lived closer. in so many ways i’d like to be like them when i grow up.

    • No, we can’t really compete either with our grandchildren’s other grandparents or our friends or any other grandparents we know. We can only be what God made us to be. I probably had more problems with comparisons as a mom than a grandmom, but in any role, we need to follow Him and His leading.

  8. I enjoyed reading your post. We have 21 grandchildren and since they all live close by it is hard to be the shopping or baking or reading or whatever grandparent because they are all so different. I do birthday dates with them and they choose where they want to go out to eat and then we do a little shopping and they pick out a birthday gift. I take care of the girls and Grandpa takes care of the boys. It’s a fun time. Most of all I want my walk with the Lord to be seen before them and pray that each one of them will know the Lord and walk with Him.

    • Wow, 21 grandchildren! How wonderful that they live close by. I love the idea of birthday dates. It’s true, they are all different, and we can’t grandparent them all the same way even as we couldn’t parent our own kids all the same way. A hearty Amen to your last sentence.

  9. Excellent article. I hope to love my grand kids and influence them for Christ. Both my daughter’s in laws are excellent grandparents. I could never compete. I am so thankful for them. God gave children 4 grandparents for a reason. It takes a lot of strength to raise kids! We are all needed. I know I do certain things with the kids that are my own unique gifts to them and do not worry what the other grandparents are doing.

    • Amen. I think I worried more about comparisons as a mom than a grandmom. But even still–we can all only grandparent in our own way. I don’t really think of competing with my grandson’s other grandparents. They are out of state, and when they are here, I try to step back and let them have time together. That’s a good thought that God gave most people four grandparents, and each one contributes something different to the relationship.

  10. So insightful Barbara, it can be so easy to fall into the competitive trap of being like someone else. I actually experienced this from my own grandma when I was little. She didn’t have much, and when I asked to do things my other grandma did with me, she responded similarly, offering the uniqueness of her own talents and resources. I never forgot that!

  11. A beautiful post Barbara! We have 13 grandchildren, ranging in ages from a few months to 23years of age & they are all unique as can be.

    I love the advice you give here of being the unique grandparent & your right, we can only be who we are & work with the circumstances we have!

    A piece of advice to all the grandparents out there, is to enjoy the younger years as much as possible with your grandchild because other interests, peers & relationships will take their interest as they grow & you don’t get to see them as much as you once did.
    Blessings, Jennifer

  12. I’m not a grandparent but what wonderful memories of times with your grandparents….caused me to wander down memory lane! My grandparents had such a tremendous influence on me and I am so grateful for each of them – in their very unique and individual ways!!

  13. Aw, Barbara … I really enjoyed reading about your grandparents and the influence they had in your life. I only ever knew my dad’s father, and not very well. But I’m so thankful that my girls had deep and meaningful relationships with both sets of grandparents. I will always be grateful that we were able to live near my parents when the girls were young so they could be a regular part of our lives.

    I look forward to being a grandparent someday too, and I hope that I will remember your words and be the best kind of grandma I can be and not worry about what anyone else does. 🙂

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