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.)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere’s my latest collection of good online reads:

Why Unhealthy People Crave Controversy, HT to Challies. “Over the years I’ve seen Christians who have engaged in controversy when needed, and I’ve observed the way that the Christlike among them so often do it—with a sense of love for the good, and for the well-being of those they believe in error, not a love for the fighting itself. And I have seen those I thought were ‘zealous for the truth’ who, in time, proved to just be zealous for the feeling of zeal.”

How Perfectionism Makes You a Spiritual Quitter. “It has taken me 43 years to begin to learn that there is a happy, spiritually-nourishing medium between praying for an hour a day and not praying at all. Between reading five chapters in my Bible and not reading a single word. Spiritual disciplines don’t have to be feast or famine, and they shouldn’t be.”

Small Miracles. A neat story of answered prayer from author Lynn Austin.

4 Ways to Help Your Kids See the Bible as Truth, HT to Story Warren. “How do we grandparents and parents convince, show or prove that we can rely on God’s truth?”

Stories Teach—Even If We Do Not Want Them To, HT to Story Warren. “When we are hoping to be merely entertained is the precise moment when we let our guards down the most, and it is in the letting down of our guard that we are most susceptible to dwelling with and admiring and eventually imitating.”

No photo or video this morning because I don’t have one handy and need to go somewhere in a bit. But, you may have heard a tiger was spotted loose in Knoxville recently. I haven’t heard whether they’ve found it, though either another one was spotted in Kingsport or this one traveled that way. Anyway, almost immediately someone started a Twitter account for Knoxville Tiger. I love people’s humor and creativity. My favorite is this one.

Happy Saturday!

Book Review on Grandparenting

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.

But Michele‘s review of There’s a Reason They Call It GRANDparenting by Michele Howe encouraged me to get this book.

Howe’s premise is that there’s a difference between everyday grandparents and grandparents:

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.

(Sharing with Booknificent, Faith ‘n Friends, Literary Musing Monday,
Carole’s Books You Loved)

Laudable Linkage

I have just a short list today of good reads to share. Enjoy!

What Does It Mean to Abide in Christ? HT to Challies. Probably the best explanation of this I remember hearing.

Is Spoiling Your Grandkids Blessing Them?

How to Be a Helper Not a Meddler. HT to Linda. I especially like the side-by-side chart. Good for all relationships, not just marriage.

Receiving Well: Eleven Tips for Helping Expats Come Home, including missionaries. HT to my friend Lou Ann, a missionary in Spain. Hint: A big welcoming party at the airport might be great for some but misery for others.

A friend posted these on Facebook for when you need encouragement for adulting. 🙂 It was from a parenting thread based in Australia, so I don’t know if they have them here. I did just a bit of searching and found others, but not these.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

I wasn’t able to get time for sharing interesting links last week, so I’ve got a lengthy list here. But perhaps you’ll find something of interest among them.

Ambushed by Beauty and Chicken Nuggets. Loved this. “It is humbling to work here, but not in the way that implies shame. Who am I to so readily dismiss a job where I witness the entire spectrum of human emotion during the course of a single shift? Who am I to think ill of this chance to observe – over and over again – the miracle of childhood and the poignancy of prayer? Who am I to think that the transcendent things that happen every night in a southern Virginia fast food joint are in any way of lesser importance than those that happen elsewhere?”

What If You’re Not as Awesome as You Think You Are? “An untroubled conscience might say less about our real character than it does about our lack of self-awareness.” We all have blind spots.

10 Marks of an Immature Believer.

Who’s Your Daddy? Quite interesting article about the Fatherhood of God and how fathers are often represented in literature. “But there’s a deeper reason for the absent/adversarial-dad theme, I think: the central conflict of humanity is that we’ve lost our Father.”

About church:

7 Lies You’ve Been Telling Yourself About the Church.

5 Tips for Enjoying the Church Prayer Meeting.

About marriage:

The REAL List For the Guy You Should Marry by my friend Ann.

Marriage Is More Than Feeling In Love. “Don’t sit around and wonder if you’re still in love with your spouse or if your spouse is still in love with you. Just love him.”

Six Things Submission Is Not.

About motherhood:

Better Than a Birth Plan. Despite our best plans, things don’t always work accordingly, especially when giving birth. We need to be careful not to make other women feel “less than” if they didn’t have the type of delivery we idealize.

How to Love Being a Mom. Because some days, it’s really hard.

Is Your Child In Charge of Your Home?

Mom and Dad, Your Job Is Not Over. “There are very few griefs for a parent greater than a child who turns away from the gospel faith in which they were raised.”

7 Rules For Online Engagement. Yes.

Dear World: Let’s Stop Giving Our Crap to the Poor. Though I hate the word “crap,” I do appreciate the points she makes.

In Praise of Administration. As someone who prefers “behind the scenes” ministry, I appreciated this affirmation that it is just as needed as the “out-front” kinds.

An Introvert’s Guide to Having People Over.

101 Generation-Bridging, Boredom-Busting Activities For Grandparents And Grandchildren. In case you can’t think of anything to do. 🙂

Fatal Illusions by my friend Adam Blumer is on sale for the Kindle for 99 cents for a time. My review is here. Also The Tenth Plague, which was originally only published in an e-format, is coming out in paperback in April. My review of that and an interview with Adam is here. I enjoyed both books quite a lot. If you like mysteries, give them a try!

47 Photos That Capture How Much Nancy Reagan Loved Ron. I always loved how she looked at him when he spoke. Near the end there is a neat video of a time when he surprised her on her birthday when she was speaking somewhere. I miss them.

And to end with a smile:

In the book

Treadmill

Happy Saturday!

(Updated to add: please don’t take any link here as an endorsement of the whole site it comes from. Some of these are from blogs I read regularly, some are from links I saw elsewhere. I try to give a “hat tip” to the source but I don’t always remember to note it. I wouldn’t knowingly send readers to a site where there was a problem without mentioning it, but in many of these cases I have just read and liked the one article without having the time to check out all the rest.)

Christmas afterglow and a few short reviews

We had a wonderful Christmas week and even some extended time with my oldest son – not only was he scheduled to be here a couple of days more than normal, but his flight out got canceled, so he was here for another night. I was thankful it was his first leg of the flight that was cancelled and not the second, so he could spend the time at home and not in an airport halfway there.

As you can imagine, little Timothy was the delight of this Christmas. At the last couple of family birthdays, he was really into this presents thing and was right in the middle of whosever presents they were, so I thought he’d suffer significant sensory overload with everybody getting presents. He happened to open a little kid-sized chair we had gotten for him first, and that worked out well, because he was delighted to sit in it the rest of the time. He loved opening his gifts but didn’t feel the need to help everyone else open theirs. His reactions were so cute. I wish I could upload a video without having to go through YouTube or Vimeo – his unwrapping of a stuffed dog was particularly sweet. Over the weekend we enjoyed tons of food, family time together, rewatching the first three Star Wars DVDs (and deciding we liked Star Trek better generally), playing Settlers of Catan, bowling, and visiting. And though it was all lovely, I think everyone is glad to be getting back to the routine today. I am personally reveling that there is no place I have to go today and nothing that has to get done besides laundry, dinner, and dishes, though I do hope to accomplish more than that.

Here is our yearly photo, in front of the house this time instead of in front of the tree:

Christmas 2015

We couldn’t get Timothy to smile, so we just said he was being very thoughtful. 🙂

In this transition week from the old year to the new, I’m going to have some posts later in the week about favorite books read this year and some of my favorite posts from the year. Before that, though, I have a few reviews I need to wrap up. I was actually hoping to have a couple more, but couldn’t quite get them finished yet.

Christmas LessonsChristmas Lessons by Patty Smith Hall is about a teacher named Claire who uses a cane as a result of contracting polio. She had broken off her engagement with Billy Warner some years earlier without giving him a reason: she had the absurd notion that her disability would hold him back in his coaching career. We’re not told until later in the book why she thought this. Suddenly Billy is back in town as the new coach at the school where she teaches, and the principal teams them together to work on a Christmas project. Of course, you can guess where the plot goes from there. It was just a touch predictable, and there were a few odd grammar issues (like “The old coach would have saw her” instead of “seen her), but overall it was a good, clean, Christian-based story.

365I picked up 365 Meditations for Grandmothers by Grandmothers from a clearance table long before I ever became a grandmother. I rediscovered it at the end of last year and, having a new first grandbaby, thought it would be a perfect time to read it.

It is authored by six different women, each penning two months’ worth of devotional thoughts about grandparenting. Each day’s selection includes a Bible verse, a couple of paragraphs, and a closing prayer.

Though there were a few good nuggets here and there, unfortunately, this is not a book I can recommend. My notes in the margins contain a number of question marks, “X” marks (meaning I thought something was wrong or off about a passage), and the phrase “wrong application.” The last is the biggest problem with this book. Sometimes what the devotional had to say was fine: even though it was a misapplication of what the quoted verse was saying, it was sometimes something that the Bible did say somewhere else. But sometimes it was totally wrong. Sometimes there were questions raised that didn’t need to be raised, like whether Paul was the author of 2 Timothy. Sometimes the gospel was clear; sometimes it was obscured or even contradicted; for example, one page says it is important to “help our grandchildren become like Jesus so that they will have a personal relationship with God” (p. 238) rather than showing them how to have a relationship with Jesus so that He can make them like Himself. Sometimes it’s just odd, like one devotional on Isaiah 55:10, about God’s Word being like the snow and rain that comes down from heaven and accomplishes God’s purpose, where the author goes on to say, “Can you imagine looking up into the sky and seeing God’s Word coming down from the sky? We can run into the fields like the birds and catch His Word as it falls from the sky” (p. 254). That paragraph earned a question mark beside it.

I was disappointed in the book early on but kept with it because, with six authors, I felt some parts of it would have to be better than others. I probably should not have: after the first few weeks I probably should have looked at representative excerpts from each of the others and then decided whether or not to keep it. If you know of a good devotional for grandmothers, let me know: sadly, this is not one of them.

All CreaturesFinally for today, I just finished listening to All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. I had enjoyed a few episodes of the old BBC series based on the books years ago but then had forgotten about them until Melanie mentioned them.

Herriot is a pen name for James Alfred Wight, and I was surprised to learn that the books are only semi-autobiographical. Maybe that was to protect the anonymity of the people he wrote about. But they are largely based on his experiences as vet in the Yorkshire area for 30 years, beginning in the 1930s.

In the books he starts out as an assistant for Sigfried Farnon, whom he describes as brilliant yet mercurial and extremely forgetful. Mostly he is very kind, though many frustrating yet comedic moments arise due to his forgetfulness. Soon Sigfried’s brother, Tristan, comes to live with them: he is an idle vet school dropout whom Sigfried keeps forgetting that he has kicked out. James’s vet skills are put to the test right away with farmers who often trust old folk remedies rather than veterinary science. In one of my favorite parts of the book, one farmer tells of putting onions in his horse’s rectum for some kind of cure, but his horse became “uneasy in the legs.” Sigfried told him he’d be uneasy in the legs, too, if someone had put onions in his rectum.

Another favorite passage is when James is invited to an elite social gathering hosted by a wealthy lady whose beloved and spoiled dog, Tricky Woo, had been treated by James. After the unfamiliar yet pleasant experiences of the evening, James is awakened in the middle of the night to come to one of the poorest farms in the district. As he contemplates the differences between the highs and lows of the night, he acknowledges that being a vet even in the most humble circumstances is where he is at home.

Sometimes his job has him nearly pulling his hair out in frustration and wondering why anyone would choose that profession, but most of the time he loves it and feels he has the best job in the world.

I enjoyed his descriptions of the Yorkshire area and people – warm, hospitable, honest, hardworking, almost a little stoic, and thrifty.

Along the way he meets a Helen Alderson, and although he hasn’t had time to think about dating much, something clicks with Helen despite two disastrous, yet humorously told, first dates.

The only flaws in the book are a fair amount of swearing and alcohol consumption, but overall it’s a funny, poignant, and heartwarming set 0f tales.

(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)