Creative Grandparenting: How to Love and Nurture a New Generation
By Jerry and Judy Schreur with granddaughter Erin Schreur
Nineteen years ago I (Jerry) held my two-hour-old grand- daughter, Kendall, in the palm of my hand and silently offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God. I have never forgotten that day; its importance rivals that of my wedding day and the day my firstborn child came into the world. Arthur Kornhaber, researcher and writer, reminds us that there are three natural, life-transforming events in our lives over which we have no control: our birth, our death, and becoming grandparents. Even now, nineteen years later and with Kendall on her way to college, my heart skips a beat thinking about that moment when I held her in my hand.
I never dreamed, even then, that grandparenting would define my life quite like it has. Not a day goes by that I do not think about my five grandchildren, now ranging in age from nineteen to twenty-seven. Seldom does a week pass without me talking to or spending time with each one of them, even though they are scattered across the country, working and studying. Judy and I find—and make—time to be with them every chance we get. We are disappointed if we miss their calls; we cancel dinner plans with friends when our grand- children come into town; we delay planning vacations until we know if we will be missing out on a chance to spend time with them. Vacations can be rescheduled and friends can wait, but being with our grandchildren cannot. There is simply no such thing as being with them enough. We are creative, involved grandparents. You can be too—there is no greater privilege.
Creative Grandparents Described
Creative grandparents find new ways to love and enjoy their grandchildren at every age and stage of their lives. They know them intimately, what they are thinking and dreaming, their fears and struggles. They know when to talk and when to listen. They have the awesome privilege of watching their grandchildren become all they will be. This kind of close relationship imparts profound joy but also carries a weight and confers responsibility. In return for getting to be part of their lives, grandparents have a responsibility to be available, to be accepting, and to love unconditionally.
Being available is taking time out of your busy schedule to be with them. It means making them a priority, choosing to be with them instead of doing other things and being other places. It is fitting into their schedules, not demanding they fit into yours, or trying to squeeze them into your limited time. It is fulfilling your promises to them, being there when they count on you. Most importantly, it is letting them know how important they are to you and to God.
Loving and accepting your grandchildren unconditionally is seeing their uniqueness and the uniqueness of their individual journeys, not expecting them to be like you, their parents, or anyone else. It is looking for and encouraging their good qualities and positive traits, not focusing on negative traits. It is listening to their ideas and suggestions and doing what makes them happy when possible and practical. It is enjoying each one of them and letting them know how grateful you are for them and for the privilege of being a part of their lives.
Creative grandparents actively look for ways to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren, and enter their world, wherever and whenever allowed or invited. Creative grandparents know the interests and passions of their grand- children and share their own with them. They are open to learning from their grandchildren and trying new things together. Creative grandparents are grateful for each opportunity to include them in their plans, but also allow them to say no to their invitations, without feeling personally rejected.
Creative grandparents enjoy their grandchildren, not merely endure them. Creative grandparents look into the eyes of their grandchildren, connect with them, see the love in their eyes, and respond to that love with a greater love. Creative grandparents walk with them, hand in hand through life, in good times and in tough times. Creative grandparents experience the great joy of having their grandchildren look up at them and say, “I just love to be with you, Grandpa.” Creative grandparents thank God for their grandchildren and for their relationship with them each and every day, leading grandparents to wonder what they could possibly have done to be so privileged. Kornhaber and Woodward in Grandparents/ Grandchildren call this relationship “the vital connection . . . second only in emotional power to the parent-child bond.”
Grandparenting is a unique and special joy. We can delight in the love and affection of our grandchildren without having to parent them. We can watch them grow into young men and women without having to keep track of curfew or worry about their school work. Grandparenting offers all the best things about parenting without the accompanying weight of responsibility. We can be free to enjoy our grand- children in a way that we may not have been able to enjoy our children. We are older, seasoned, perhaps less rigid with the passing of years. We’re more ready to laugh and cry, better prepared to love without reservation.
There are biological grandparents and there are creative grandparents. Biological grandparents carry pictures in their wallets and hang photos on the wall. They have sporadic con- tact with their grandchildren and limited input in their lives; they are gift-givers and perfunctory hug-receivers. Creative grandparents carry memories in their hearts and love in their souls. Creative grandparents go beyond showing off their grandchildren as trophies. They want to impart to them their values. Christian grandparents serve God and their grand- children by teaching them about Jesus. They seek to live in a way that makes them heroes of faith to their grandchildren. They shower their grandchildren with love and acceptance. They build deep, meaningful relationships that will last a lifetime. Creative grandparents make a difference in the lives of their grandchildren.
This book is about creative grandparenting. Creative grand- parenting goes beyond the occasional phone call and birthday present. It challenges to you to take grandparenting seriously. Judy and I want to help you realize that, as grandparents, we can have a profound influence on our grandchildren, and they on us. We want to inspire you to be the best creative grandparents you can be.
The Benefits of Creative Grandparenting
The creative grandparenting challenge isn’t something we take lightly or take on without reason. We believe that grandchildren benefit greatly from a strong relationship with their grandparents, and research has indicated this time and time again. Studies show heightened self-esteem, greater chance of success in later life, and a stronger sense of family values in adults who have had good relationships with their grandparents. The facts are in. They tell us that, now more than ever, children need love and acceptance. Now more than ever, children need trusted adults to tell them that they are okay. Now more than ever, children need role models, adults living out their faith and values with honesty and integrity.
As much as our grandchildren need us, we need our grandchildren. The benefits of being a creative, involved grandparent are many. When interviewing grandparents we constantly heard the phrase, “My grandchildren keep me young.” They do. They show our tired bodies what it is like to run barefoot through the summer grass. They inspire us by scaling the trees we climbed in our youth. Their youthful enthusiasm reminds us of days long past. Grandchildren give us a renewed sense of what is possible. They give birth to new hope in us, reminding us of things we have forgotten about ourselves and teaching us things we’ve never known.
They also let us into the world of young people today. One grandmother we know listens to the music of her teen- age grandson. She says, “I just want to know what’s going on in the world, and John helps me stay in touch. He never treats me like an ‘old fogey’ but thinks it’s kind of neat to lend me his CDs and create playlists for my iPod. He even brags to his friends that his grandma likes hip-hop.” As we get older, we may begin to feel isolated from our families and from the mainstream of society. Our grandchildren bring us back. They provide us with an entrance into the world again, a ticket to American culture.
Taken from Creative Grandparenting: How to Love and Nurture a New Generation, © 1992, 2011 by Jerry Schreur and Judy Schreur. Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Box 3566, Grand Rapids MI 49501. All rights reserved.
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