My son was the first grandchild on each side of our family, so we have had a front row seat to the transition our parents have made to grandparents – and it has been a joy to watch. From my father-in-law’s unabashed rush to see him in the delivery room to my mama’s sweet and snugly love for my girl, I am awed by how much they love them. I have been pleasantly surprised at the way my kiddos interact differently with all four of them, each relationship finding its own unique rhythm and tenor. Some have taken a bit longer to build and some were instant. Some are fun and loud and some are sweet and soft. All are blessings.
So whether you are a new grandparent, trying to be a great grandparent, or simply trying to pour into the lives of kiddos who are not your own, here’s what our family has taught us:
1. Follow the rules – most of the time. Help us enforce the important stuff please (like treating other people with kindness and using manners), but whether or not they jump on the bed at your house can be your little secret.
2. Be a second voice. Find your own way to say what we’re saying to our kids. You have years of wisdom to impart, and sometimes your words will be better than mine.
3. Balance the intake. Donuts for breakfast are ok (and so is ice cream for dessert) but somewhere in the middle please make sure they eat a few things that fall in the bottom portions of the food pyramid.
4. Tell them your story. Teach them about the things that you love. Share your love for flowers and buildings and good food. They’ll be richer for it – and so will we.
5. Encourage them. Tell them what you think is special about them. The world is full of people who will tell them the opposite and they need more people in their cheering section.
6. Tell them you love them. Whisper it in their ear, write it on a card, or say it straight to their face for no special reason. They cannot hear it too much, and they need to hear it from more than just me.
7. Read to them. Board books, chapter books, the newspaper or the Bible – just read. Let them learn your voice.
8. Give more time than stuff. In fifty years their memories won’t be the toys or the clothes, they’ll be the time.
9. Keep advice to a minimum and prayer at a maximum. Things (and especially things related to parenting) are best learned by experience. You did an excellent job raising us, and we love it when you trust that we’ll figure it out ourselves.
10. Love their parents. It looks different now than it did when we were their age, but keep loving us, keep cheering for us, keep praying for us. You know better than anyone that this job is no joke. We learn most of what we do as parents (and what we don’t) from you, so when we’re rocking this gig – tell us, and when we’re missing the mark – pray for us. We need you – and so do they.
As I have watched our parents hands move from holding my babies to holding their hands, these are things they do that make them great grandparents. This list is in no way exhaustive of all that they are excellent at, but it is things that I value more than words can say and that I acknowledge not nearly enough.
What things do your parents do that make them great grandparents?