Recently a friend asked me (in a card) if I had a grandparenting devotional that I used and liked. I hadn’t even thought of looking for one.
I look forward to answering her question in person, but instead of disappointing her with a “no”, I will share with her what works for us.
I didn’t give much thought to what kind of grandparent I would be before Grand #1 was born. For those of you who have followed me for years, you may remember our summer of “Two Weddings and a Baby”! Our oldest daughter was married two days after Grand #1 was born and our youngest daughter was married four months later. The year was full of home renovations, wedding preparations, baby showers, bridal showers, and helping with nursery preparations. I did not have much headspace left to think about what kind of Nana I would be.
And then he came! And with a bang! It was all hands on deck keeping this little guy happy and helping his mama regain her strength after a tough delivery.
As soon as I met him, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of this little boy. I can’t explain it, but from then on I was dedicated to knowing him, him knowing me, and being a blessing to him however I could.
As I share a few ways I intentionally grandparent, please know this is me sharing with you—no absolutes or one-size-fits-all. Also I realize that my experience is limited—Grand #1 just turned 5.
The first way I grow my relationship with our grands is to serve them and their parents. I try to help in whatever way they need. We live close to each other so this is easier than if we were a distance away.
Here are a few things that work for us:
- Changing so many diapers!
- Helping their mama around the house.
- Baths—bath time is a great playtime for us—until there are two boys in the tub at once and then it’s just plain crazy!
- Keeping them so their parents can have a break.
- And now I am one of Grand #1’s PreK homeschool teachers.
Relationships are important to me. As I said earlier, I am hooked on our two little grands. I am so thankful I can be in their lives. Any time I can be with them is an opportunity to get to grow our relationships. All the little things—changing a diaper, giving a bath, feeding or dressing them—are the perfect time to chat and play with them. Just as with my other relationships, being there is so important to growing in relationship.
As our grands grow playtime becomes an important part of our relationship. I play with them whatever they want to play. I cannot tell you how many times I have built the train track, including the bridge, only to have a two-year-old bump it and knock it down and cry, “Choo-choo, Choo-choo!” This summer we have played so much baseball! Both boys have learned how to hit a baseball. I have thrown many pitches and chased many balls. All this activity keeps me young! Investing in their play tells them they are important to me.
Listening is crucial to growing my relationship with them and being a positive influence in their lives. Right now Grand #2 can say a few words, but he rattles on in gibberish just like he is speaking in complete sentences that we understand. His Pops and I build a relationship with him by listening and responding as if we understand his story. And the need to be a good listener will continues as he grows. I love this quote by David Augsburger—
“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
We all want and need to be heard to feel loved. And that is what I want for our Grands—for them to know they are loved no matter what.
Endorsing Mom and Dad—A big part of being Nana and Pops is to respect and honor what my daughter and son-in-law say. They are the number ones in their lives. I am the support staff. I had my chance at parenting and now it is their turn. I get to do the fun stuff like impromptu water fights on the deck after a rain or teaching them to spit—just in case a bug flies into their mouths (you never know!).
Sharing My Faith and Teaching about God—I try to make this a lifestyle. We talk about God in nature. We pray before meals, at bedtime, and any time we need “to ask Jesus to help us not be naughty.” We read from The Jesus Storybook (so good!).
As I said, I am early in this grandparenting game and I don’t pretend to have it all figured out. But I feel the items I talked about above are more like principles and less of a how-to. Service, growing in relationship, being interested in what they’re interested in, listening, helping them respect Mom and Dad, and talking about God—all things that work to build relationship no matter the age of our Grands.
I have not done this grandparenting thing well all the time. I have messed up and apologized a lot. But we are all human and in process together. The most important thing is to be in your grandchildren’s lives as best you can. You truly are a gift to your grands.
*David W. Augsburger, Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.