Finding time for children to spend with grandparents can seem challenging. In a busy life, it can seem like one more thing to fit into the schedule. However, the rewards that come from having other adults invested in the lives of our children is truly a blessing.
Once when running errands with our little ones, my husband and I remarked on the beauty of the evening sky. A sea of pale blue was smeared with white brush-stroke clouds, each highlighted by the orange of the setting sun. The horizon was studded with jewel-tone autumn leaves and the overall effect struck us silent. It was stunning.
Minutes passed as we took it all in and then my son spoke up from the back seat of our van. “Momma,” he said, “We are living in one of grandmama’s paintings! I am so lucky to have a grandparent who paints. There is such beauty in God’s world. A lot of people miss it. But, I see this differently just because of her!”
The truth of his words sank in slowly. My mother, called Grandmama out of respect for her Canadian background, has brought a perspective on life to my children that they would not have gotten from me. From the time they were little, she would scatter shiny buttons and glittery objects in her home to be found as treasures. In doing this, she taught them to look for beauty in the simplest spots. And as soon as they were able to hold a paintbrush in their chubby hands, she taught them to paint. Without thought to cost, she opened her own water color pallets, shared high quality paper, and talked to them about perspective and art and beauty and craft. Who they are has been impacted by these quiet moments with her. How they see the light, the dancing leaves, the wonder around them, has been focused by hours spent over years with her by their side and paint on their hands.
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts (Psalm 145:4).
As a busy mom of four, I am not quick to take out our paints. My schedule rarely allows for the luxury of time and mess that such an activity requires. And yet, the other night I was reminded that God will use grandparents in the lives of our children in ways that help them to grow into the people He has created them to be. The fact that my mother has encouraged my children to develop an appreciation and familiarity with art has offered far more than an activity they can share. It has opened their eyes to the wonder of Creation and given them an ability to see God’s hand in the most unexpected places. They notice the treasures in the sparkle of the sunset on the lake, they see the layers of color in the autumn sky, they take in all that is before them to see and accept it as a gift from the Creator. And I am left thankful for the impact my mom has had in their young lives.
As parents, we have the opportunity to foster these relationships. Our children will be blessed by our efforts. These connections can be strengthened in the following ways:
Be flexible and available when planning time between grandparent and child. The relationship they share is different than that between a parent and a child. The activities, expectations, and results have a rhythm all their own. But as time is shared, our children are learning that flexibility as well. They are learning about the joy that can be found in new ways and with different people and God can use this growth to foster patience and curiosity in our kids.
Be intentionally respectful of not only the grandparents in your child’s life, but those of other generations, too. We need to respect the life lessons they have experienced and teach our children to do the same. We need to respond in loving ways, appreciating their special gifts and talents and learning to listen calmly, even when stories are long or repeated. In each of our lives, we will have the chance to be the listener… and later, to be a grandparent who wants to be heard. Teach your children to be respectful, calm, and patient by modeling these things for them.
When family bonds are broken or grandparents live far away, it is important to note that this role may sometimes be held by someone else. We want our children to have positive and healthy connections with many people from other generations. Loving church friends, older neighbors, and aunts and uncles can help our children to connect to these opportunities when it is not possible to fulfill them with immediate family.
Family relationships can be complex. But there is value in encouraging a strong bond between grandparent and child. Whether they teach our little ones to paint or bake or run a race, grandparents speak into the lives of our children in ways that change who they are and broaden their scope. This stretching can help them to see the world in ways that they may otherwise miss. And they are impacted by that cross-generational exchange. Because grandparents have a different life rhythm, they can make room for experiences that, as parents, we may push aside. They carry with them a perspective on life and history that pours forth upon our children. Those experiences and conversations shared can be powerfully used by God to help them to see His world more clearly.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children (Psalm 103:17).
Whether we find ways to help our children connect to grandparents, or to someone who is willing to play this role in our kids’ lives, there is value in allowing and encouraging that relationship. It is worth the time and worth the mess to enrich the lives of our children and to offer another voice to speak wisdom and truth and beauty to them. Seeds of blessing are sown into the lives of our children when they have grandparents invested in their lives.
And, through this relationship, someday we may find that what looks like an afternoon of painting, may actually become an activity that leads our little ones to a place where they can see God’s hand in the sunset. God’s blessings passing through the generations!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra