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

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