Grand-children's visits are times for watching and clapping for first steps again and re-installing baby gates. Taking walks around the block with toddlers who like to hold leafs and pound the pavement with tree branches and stop to watch squirrels climb trees. Grand-children's visits are times for cooking a big meal again, or making cakes and cookies, pulling out recipes we may not have used for awhile since now meals are usually only for one or two. Grand-children's bright young faces are like flowers around the table, bringing back joyful memories of when our own children were young and growing boys or girls who ate every two hours. The refrigerator door opens and closes more often (with permission of course) and they know that the candy dish is their special kingdom to raid. The sibling jokes abound. The very air seems suddenly effervescent with new hopes and new dreams.
The bond between a grand-parent and a grand-child is a unique one. Oh, I know the jokes about how we have free rein to spoil our grand-children are only HALF true, but spoiling is not all that we do. We're the privileged ones who can share family history with them, not only about what their Dad or Mom was like at a certain age, but about what life and the world were like those eons ago when WE were young. We have the opportunity to instill in them some of the "old-fashioned" values that society has discarded or forgotten.
We grandparents have also acquired a wisdom and mellowness and strength of vision that we did not yet possess when our children were young. I sometimes think that God gives us the joy of grand-parenting so that we can get parenting right the second time around. Today I can look back with a pang at how short-tempered I was as a parent, how my mind was constantly preoccupied with a million concerns and pursuits. Not as much bothers or preoccupies me now. I can be more tender, more relaxed, more aware of how miraculous a human life is, how short the time when children and grand-children are young and still at home.
Grand-children have much to share with us if we can take the time to be quiet and listen. They give us insights into how their generation thinks and what their concerns are. They can share their favorite books or movies or music and introduce us to singers, writers, and artists we may actually like! My grand-children introduced me to the "Harry Potter" series years ago. Recently, it was so enjoyable watching the new "Star Wars" movie with two grand-children and remembering and reminiscing with them how much their Dad and Aunts and Uncles loved the original movies.
Sometimes they even ask advice. Sometimes our opinions on life can reflect their parents' views, and sometimes we can share different perspectives that help them think. Sometimes we can share our faith with them in a natural way, even teach them about prayer. How inspiring it can be for them to realize that we have had a relationship with God, a faithful relationship, that has lasted our whole life.
Our prayer about our relationship with our grand-children should always be "Jesus, show us when to speak and when to be silent; when to get involved and when to get out of the way." Because, except for unusual situations, we are not the prime care-givers. We are "support staff." Our job is not to criticize their parents but to enhance their parenting. Our children and in-law children are not us. They won't always parent the way we did. In some ways they might do a better job than we did, and unfortunately sometimes they may do a worse job. I know parents who've had to speak up, who have had to intervene, or who have ended up raising their grand-children. Usually the best thing we can do for our grand-children is to give support to their parents and help strengthen their marriage.
Each one of our grand-children is a special gift to our family's life and also a special gift for this world's life. We need to share that with them often because they will meet people in their lives who will try to tear them down and tear them apart. Every day we need to "armor" them with our prayers. Some we may not see as often as others. But our prayers can travel to them more surely than email can. And when each of them comes and goes in our lives, our hugs and kisses leave invisible but very real imprints on their souls. Love-prints that will last forever.