Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles on grandparenting which will appear here in this space every Monday for the next 8 weeks. Click here to check out the first article. You are invited to tune in each week and to forward these to grandparents you know.
No one can fully describe the exhilaration of holding that first grandbaby in your arms! The baby of your baby, fresh and new to this world. There lies joy and rapture, anticipation and wonder, along with some worry about what the future will hold for that precious bundle! But the inevitable ups and downs ahead are all wrapped up into a big beautiful sphere of adventure for grandparents called, “the joy of leaving a legacy.”
It is said that “Parenting is an investment and grandparenting is the return on the investment.” How much time and thought and effort we invest in grandparenting can eventually produce substantial returns. Maybe we don’t start out thinking about leaving a legacy to these beautiful little people who bring so much light to our lives, but as the years go by, we realize that the legacy that we leave to our grandchildren won’t be a bronze plaque dedicated in our honor. What we leave will be invisible. It will be a monument of understanding and integrity and courage and unconditional love inside their minds and hearts that will stand forever.
Most of us are going to be grandparents much longer than we were mothers or fathers with children in our homes. Hover over your life as a grandparent for a moment. Look down from above like a drone and survey these questions as you see yourself with your grandchildren:
- How do I maximize my time with my grandchildren?
- Do I know what they love? Do they know what I love?
- Am I teaching them about our family narrative—stories of their ancestors and where they came from?
- Do I spend quality time with each of them or send messages of support and love if they live far away?
- When they are in our home, am I asking them questions about important things or am I just tending them?
- What will they remember about me?
- Am I remembering to have fun?
- What legacy do I want to leave that will help light the path ahead of them in this jarring but joyful world?
- How do I make each feel that he/she is my favorite?
And each grandchild can be your favorite in his or her own unique way. Each has unique gifts and unique problems. Some are dreamy and artistic, some are balls of fire, some are quiet and reflective. The legacy we leave will be a little different with each one.
If we have several grandchildren, does each one dilute our love? Anne Morrow Lindbergh was so right when she said, “Only love can be divided endlessly and still not be diminished.” Nothing is more exciting than welcoming each new little soul to our growing family!
The learning curve for leaving a legacy as grandparents is slow and thoughtful, unlike the heat of the refiners’ fire that we felt as young parents.
We are wiser and even though we’re a bit “wrinkled up” we can make a difference and we can shine in the lives of our grandchildren!
The best part is that we can send them home when we’re tired. For most of us we are no longer responsible for the nitty gritty every day discipline and character building of these children. But the secret is that we are still able to teach them the values we hold dear. They may not snatch it right up and say thanks, but they will remember more than we realize if we make deliberate efforts to teach them about the meaningful and magical things of life. And looking to the far distant future, our example of love and caring will almost surely make them better grandparents.
Most importantly we can leave a legacy of unconditional love. We can love them with abandon, even when their parents may not like them very much at the moment. As the clever Erma Bombeck said, “A grandparent loves you from when you are a bald baby until you are a bald father and all the hair in between.”
The love we give to our grandchildren often has a substantial return that is filled with delight! Our daughter Saydi transcribed this message to me (Linda) straight from the mouth of her three-year-old, who was too young to write: “Dear Grammie, I like your face. I like your cheeks. I like to kiss and cuddle them. Love, Emmeline.”
Each situation is different when it comes to nurturing our grandchildren, but no matter what our circumstances, we can make a difference in their lives! Whether we live next door or half way around the world, we can be deliberate in teaching them the joys of life that will be woven into the fiber of their souls long after we are gone.
Richard and Linda Eyre’s parenting and life-balance books have reached millions and been translated into a dozen languages. As fellow Baby Boomers, their passion and their writing focus has now shifted to the joy of Grandparenting. Linda’s latest book is Grandmothering, and Richard’s is Being a Proactive Grandfather, each of which is now on sale on Amazon.