The Joy and Peril of Grandparenting

The Joy and Peril of Grandparenting

Upon hearing the story of another grandmother and being a grandmother myself has propelled me to say a few words about the value of grandparents, but also the joy and risk of the role. All of this being said, we should take into account that grandparents are to respect the boundaries parents has set for their children, whether or not we agree with them. Also recognizing that there are grandparents whose conduct negates access to their grandchildren.

However, what I want to emphasize, is the lack of respect and appreciation given to many grandparents today and whose life are a good example for the grandchildren. It seems that the parents fail to communicate to their children the value and respect owed to grandparents. As I talked to other grandparents as to what I was writing about, I heard a few stories about the perils of grand parenting.

One grandmother who is also a single woman, told me that how her daughter threatens not to let her see the grand baby if she does not comply with certain requests. By the use of contempt, she manipulates the grandmother saying things such as, “What kind of grandmother are you?” To prove her value as a grandmother and not to lose the privileged of seeing her grand baby, she gives into her daughter’s demands at a great emotional cost to her.

Another grandmother told me of the pain of not being allowed to participate in the life of her grandchild because she refuses to give into the demands of the mother who treats her more as a maid than a grandmother. The list of does and don’ts is the first thing given to the grandmother when asked to baby-sit, failure to comply with every dot and tiddle leads to disregard for the grandmother’s insight and knowledge about taking care of young children. Keep in mind, she raised four children of her own.

A grandmother is preoccupied with the high expectations her son and daughter-in-law have to correct their 2-year-old daughter. In her view, the parents are very rigid in how they treat her granddaughter. In spite of her concerns, she says nothing. She fears that to suggest the possibility that the parents might be wrong could put the relationship in question. She and her husband want to have an impact on their grandchild’s life so she keeps her emotions and opinions to herself. The boundaries set for these grandparents are not only ridged, but also denote a lack of respect for them as people capable of reasoning and taking care of children, while respecting parental guidelines.

I have also heard parents make derogatory statement or laugh about grandparents in the presence of the grandchildren. When things like this happen the child dismissed anything the grandparent has to say as unimportant and irrelevant.

In light of this, lets take a look at what the Old and New Testaments have to say about the grandparent’s position in the life of young children:

Deuteronomy 4:6-9 (NLT)
“But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.”

Obviously, God thought of grandparents as trustworthy and capable to pass on to grandchildren the precepts of His word. Could it be that the respect the Jewish culture has demonstrated for their elders is the one reason for their preservation?

Exodus 34:7 Exodus 34:7 (NLT)
“… I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations.”

Psalm 103:17 Psalm 103:17-18 (NLT)
“But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children.”

It is important to notice, that the effect of our conduct has an impact on the following generations. As a result, we have a responsibility to ask ourselves what is the legacy that we will passed on.

2 Timothy 1:5 2 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)
“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”

It is quite clear that Timothy’s grandmother played a big role in the life of young Timothy and that his mother obviously saw and allows the benefit of that role. The responsibility of the parents then is to evaluate with sober judgment if the conduct of the grandparent merits their trust.

For the grandparents, the sound of those little voices when they call you Grandma or Grandpa or Nana or Papa is invaluable. To see their little eyes light up when you bow to give them a hug, or you make a surprise visit is wonderful. To attend one of their activities and see them kicking a ball, tumbling on a mat, swimming another lap in the pool or playing a part in a play, is joy indescribable and of course we believe there are no other children in the whole world that can quite measure up to our grandchildren. Then as they grow, we wish for their life to be free from difficulties, but we know better and realized that our love for them does not shield them from the perils of life. However, as grandparents, we hope that our prayers or perhaps our emotional contribution to their lives and the examples we set, contribute to their well-being and help them manage with integrity and courage whatever life has in store for them. And to that end we embark in hope that our efforts will be a contribution for good in their life.

Part 1 of a 2 part series

Elodia Flynn, L.C.S.W.
Founder, Walking Worthy