Being raised in a pastor’s home, I didn’t have the opportunity or blessing of being raised near my grandparents like some people I know. For example, my wife spent the first part of her life living in a house that shared the same driveway with her grandparents and from birth until the time she moved to college living in the same town with both sets of grandparents. She tells stories of eating at her grandparents’ house after church on Sunday mornings, summers at her Grandmother Robinson’s house, planting strawberries with her Granddaddy Dowdy and huge family get-togethers in Gleason, TN.
Those are things that I never got to experience. I never had the opportunity to see my grandparents every week or even several times a week. I never knew what it was like to go to church on Sunday morning and then gather with other family members at grandma’s house for lunch. I don’t have any memories of spending the night at my grandparents while my parents went out to dinner.
At most I got to see my grandparents three or four times a year. Normally we would spend Christmas with the grandparents and a week or so during the summer. Occasionally we would make the six plus hour drive from one end of the state of Tennessee to the other for a special occasion such as a funeral or wedding. I think I remember going to a family reunion or two. And of course, my grandparents would drive from Knoxville to Milan for a birthday or graduation or something similar.
I’m not bitter or resentful over not having had more opportunities to spend with my grandparents, but I can’t help but think that I missed out on something very special. I’m also afraid that it’s someting many people who are blessed by living near their grandparents likely take for granted today. If you’re blessed to live within driving distance of your grandparents – or for the purpose of today’s post – if you have children and you live close to your parents, let me encourage you to make it a priority to spend time with them on a regular basis.
I believe that we are living in a world – a culture – in which my experience will increasingly become the norm and my wife’s experience will increasingly become the exception. I see this in our own experience as a family. Now that I’m a pastor my family is nine hours from the closest set of grandparents and 18 or so from the other. We try to make plans to see them regularly, returning to our home town for holidays or spending our vacation time with them, but I know that it still is not exactly what I would want if I were in my kids shoes. I would want to see them more. Of course, they don’t know anything different, much like my own experience.
So, with all of that in mind, I want to share a verse and some very practical suggestions to grandparents today.
“when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” 2 Tim. 1:5
If you’re a grandparent who finds yourself miles and miles, hours and hours away from your grandchildren, let me give you some very practical suggestions on how to be a great (and godly) “long distance grandparent.”
* Call your grandchildren regularly. I always loved talked to my “Nanny” on the phone and your grandchildren will too. Keep up with their interests and activities. My little girl wants to be a ballerina one week and a princess the next. Jack likes dogs and bugs. Make it a point to know what they like and enjoy and then talk about those things on the phone with them when you get the chance.
* Take advantage of technology. With all of the technological advantages we have today, there really is no reason why your grandchildren can’t see and talk with you on the computer. A simple suggestion would be to read them a book over Skype or FaceTime once a week when its time for them to go to bed. At the very least, you can video yourself reading a book and send it via email or snailmail.
* Cut out comic strips from the newspaper. White out the words and write in your own conversations. Mail them to your grandchildren. (Kids love getting their own mail. I know my children do.)
* Send inexpensive gifts. It’s not the price but the thought that really matters. A bookmark or a page of stickers, a pencil or a coloring book sent when its not a birthday or holiday can make a regular day into a great day for your grandchildren.
* As your grandchildren learn to read, write an original story. It doesn’t have to be any longer than three or four paragraphs. Maybe write about a personal experience that they can identify with or appreciate. Glue it to a colored piece of paper and mail it.
* Mail postcards to your grandchildren when you’re on vacation or as you travel. Again, kids love getting mail. I know I do. I’m still the one who checks the mail at the church office. I loved getting mail as a little boy and I still enjoy it today.
* Make sure to weave in your personal faith and trust in God. In a very loving and honest way show and share your faith and trust in Jesus into the cards, letters, phone calls and videos you send to your grandchildren.
As I read what Paul wrote about the faith of Timothy I can’t get away from the fact that his grandmother – Eunice – had a great impact on both his personal as well as spiritual life.
As our culture continues to change there will be more and more families that are separated not by streets but by states. Make it a priority to build into your grandchildren’s lives through some of these simple suggrestions, and most of all, don’t forget to pray for them every single day.