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Grandparenting - Caring For Your Children’s Children

“He’s your grandchild, isn’t he?” a man asked my husband and me about the three year old boy who was with us recently in a restaurant. Hardly waiting for our “Yes”, the man went on, “I knew it at once. I have a grandchild too and I love him probably more than his father, my own son.”

There were other places – at the beach resort, in a park – where someone asked us about our grandchild Nick, the first of the third generation “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Once in a supermarket where we sat him in front of a shopping cart, someone wanted us to confirm what he thought. There is in an adult's behavior that makes obvious even to strangers the grandparent-grandchild relationship.

I think back to the time I first held Nick in my arms. He was only two weeks old then. As I felt the heaving of his tiny chest against mine, love welled up from deep within me. I had an indescribable, never-felt-before feeling . Right then, my heart locked on to his.

Why is the birth of a grandchild greeted by grandparents with such festive excitement and happiness that's sometimes mingled with tears? Why do relatives and close friends call to congratulate and rejoice with new grandparents?

I think of at least two reasons. One, grandparents look upon their grandchildren as an extension of their lives. Two, the birth of a grandchild gives grandparents a second chance at parenting - kindling new aspirations and new hopes.

The charming book of Ruth in the Bible bears out these two age-old reasons. It tells that when Naomi, widowed and bereft of her two sons, became a grandmother, her women friends rejoiced. They spread the news throughout the village: “Naomi is a grandmother! The grandmother of a baby boy.” To Naomi they said, “Praise the Lord! He has given you a grandson. May he become famous throughout Israel. Now your family line will not die out. Naomi took the baby in her arms and cared forit as if it had been her own.”

How many grandparents are doing just that today? Caring for their grandchildren as their very own! Doing it for their own son or daughter who must work to support a family. Helping a son or daughter trying to cope with single parenthood. Roughing it up perhaps in overseas or wherever. How many are surrogating as Papas and Mamas whose presence is a once-a-year event or rarer! Blessed are those grandchildren who have their grandfathers and grandmothers, instead of just paid help, to care for them in the absence of their parents.

In some countries, a common custom is for three generations to live together. While in other countries children send their aged parents to nursing homes, sons and daughters share their roofs with them.

This practice has mutual benefits for the three generations. Instead of pining away the rest of their lives in loneliness and sometimes, neglect, grandparents recapture the joy of companionship and of being in the bosom of their loved ones.

Away at work, Papas and Mamas rest at the thought that at home grandpa or grandma are both are in charge. Be it food or cuddling that the little ones need, someone is there to give it to them. Be it a bruised knee or elbow or even a wounded ego, grandfathers or grandmothers have a remedy for it. When grandma's thermometer fingers detect a fever, she and Lola know what to do. Such tender loving care binds the first and third generations with a special bond. Being able to do something good gives the old folks the feeling of still being needed and useful. And that has a wonderful therapeutic effect on them.

There's another important aspect in children's lives wherein grandparents are useful. “Young people today are taught everything from computer programming to ballet but they are not taught values,” complained one parent.

While parents shouldn't turn over the rearing of their children to grandparents, they may draw wisdom from the old folks' rich experience. With their lifelong memories, grandparents are a storehouse of values and culture such as reverential treatment of their elders, deference to their parents' wishes, hospitality, and neighborliness. And above all they can instill spirituality in the young.

On the other hand, it's common for grandparents to spoil their grandchildren. “It is proverbial that grandparents as a rule are unfit to bring up their grandchildren.” This warning from the pen of one of America's greatest women writers should be heeded by both grandparents and the children's own parents.

Grandparents spoil their grandchildren if they overindulge them. If they obey their grandchildren instead of their grandchildren obeying them. If they excuse their errors, openly taking sides with them against the children's own parents, and being “cities of refuge” when the parents use the rod.

Back to Naomi mentioned earlier in this article. Her women friends wished that her grandson would become “famous throughout Israel.” How truly their wish was fulfilled! For the grandson named Obed was the grandfather of David, King of Israel after Saul, and one of the ancestors of Jesus, the Son of God. Would David have become such if Obed had been spoiled by Naomi and Obed, in turn, spoiled his grandson David?

Centuries after Naomi, Paul, the greatest character in the New Testament after Christ, gave credit to another grandmother, Lois. To Timothy, his “dear son in the faith,” Paul said, “I remember your unpretentious faith in God, the same faith I've seen in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice”. Here's an example of united effort in the rearing of grandchildren.

Closer to our time lived Ulrich Zwingli's pious grandmother. In a herdsman's cottage in the Alps she told him of precious Bible stories, thus training him for his mission to be the leader of the Swiss Reformation.

Surrogating as parents to grandchildren is both an awesome responsibility and an opportunity with eternal consequences. We may not reap the rewards in our lifetime, but someday, on the sea of glass, may we be numbered among those whose grandchildren will rise up and call us blessed!

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