Before we launch into some creative and meaningful ideas for grandparents, let me (John) share with you something I remember vividly about my grandfather. We called it the Great Parakeet Fiasco, and it became a legend in our home.
I was in second grade. Our parakeet had escaped from its cage while we were at school. My grandmother was cleaning the parakeet’s cage, and Tweetie (yes, we were creative in naming pets, including Mr. Cat) decided to make a break for it — and got past her hand and flew into the living room. Grandma ordered my grandfather to catch the runaway parakeet, which he did by throwing a dish towel over it and then taking it in his hand.
But then it happened. Tweetie was obviously scared and bit a large chunk out of Grandfather’s right index finger. Almost spasmodically, Grandfather squeezed his hand and cried out, “Dumb bird!” (Or words to that effect.) My grandfather was an old carpenter and a hard-as-nails Texan. Tragically — and he truthfully didn’t mean to — his hands were so strong, that spasmodic squeeze was all it took to send Tweetie to parakeet heaven. (Please, no e-mails on the theology of such a place.)
I share this tragic story not because it was funny. It wasn’t. But what happened was almost as bad. My grandmother was not in the room when Tweetie expired. So my grandfather took the bird and put it back in the cage. He wrapped its feet around the wooden perch that stretched across the middle of the cage and then leaned the parakeet up against the side, hoping it would look like Tweetie had fallen asleep and passed away.
However, like any great cover-up, it didn’t work. Pandemonium broke out when we got home from school, and a misshapen bird led to a reluctant confession. And here is why I share this very sad story.
There is simply no way to hide things — for long -from our children or grandchildren. They are like God’s little spies. And as God’s Word says,
Nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. — Luke 8:17 NASB
That doesn’t mean we have to be perfect grandparents. None of us are or will be. But kids remember our actions — positive or negative. And as we get older and realize more acutely that there is an expiration date on all our lives, it’s important we realize that our children and grandchildren won’t remember all the places we took them, but they will remember how we loved them.
So here are several small ways to bring the Blessing home to a grandchild’s life.
1. Pick a household chore and team up with your grandchildren.
First, real men (and women) do chores. And hopefully your grandchildren will have parents who are wise enough to assign them some. If they’re too young to do them, that’s when kids want to do chores! But if they’re old enough to do the chore, odds are they aren’t going to like it.
Which is where you step in — not to do the chore for them, but with them. And while you’re doing that task, talk to them about some chores you had to do as a child: the fun ones, the challenging ones. The time you got caught skipping out on a chore — and the consequences — or the thing that chore actually taught you. Your chores will very likely show you grew up in a very different world from today and your grandchildren’s chores. And this will give you a chance to share your story — which is in itself a wonderful way of blessing each of your grandchildren.
I’m grateful for the stories that my mother told me about the pigs down in the mud and how they knew it was her when she was trying to feed them. Or my grandfather talking about falling asleep while driving the tractor and waking up when it ran into — and through — the neighbors’ fence. It was another world. It brought me closer to both of them to hear their chores and challenges, and it remains a blessing to me to this day.
2. Declare a grandparent Anything-Goes Dinner national holiday.
You might talk with your children before the next time you’re watching the grandkids to ask their permission to do this. (Or you can ask for forgiveness!) But one great way to bless kids is to declare a national holiday on whatever day you’ve got the kids for dinner. Announce it as National Anything-Goes Dinner Night and then head to the store. There, you let them pick out a main course, a something-else side to put on their plate, and a dessert. And since it’s anything goes, get ready for chocolate milk for the main course, peanut butter mixed with jelly as their side, and macaroni and cheese for their dessert.
While they’re eating, talk to them about how different things can still be good together — like how their grandmother and grandfather are different and the Lord has made them a wonderful mix. And how their mother and father are very different from each other, but they’re wonderful together too. And, finally, how that grandson in front of you and the granddaughter on the other side of the table are very different from each other — but they’re very loved as well. That’s the message of 1 Corinthians 12. We’re not all “eyes.” We’re not all “ears.” But we are all placed in the body right where we belong.
It’s a fun way to point out what you love about them — and how you can love someone (like their sister) just as much, even though you are very different from that person. This even provides a great opportunity to talk to your grandchildren about racial differences and help ensure that our next generation will step up and heal racial division and hurts in our country as well.
3. Just like air — teach them that God is always there.
Kids grow up in a flash. But even so, our time as grandparents is ticking on an even faster clock. One way to leave your grandchildren a picture of how your love and God’s love will always be there — even when they can’t see it — is to bring some balloons to the dinner table.
Make sure there’s no choking hazard for little kids. With older kids, while still supervising them, have them each hold and blow up a balloon. Then, rather than having them tie the balloon, tell them instead to aim it at their grandmother (wherever she’s sitting) or grandfather and “shoot” the balloon at them! Kids love watching those balloons shoot across the room! Let them do it several times until they’re all blown out.
Then say, “Kids, let me ask you a question. Can you see air?” And of course, unless you live in Southern California, the answer for most kids will be no. Then share with them about what they’ve been doing with their balloons. “Did you know that air — even if you can’t see it — has power? Just like how that balloon shot across the room. And air, even if you can’t see it, is a part of space, just like the way air shapes a balloon when you blow into it.”
Then tell them, “I want you kids to remember something, and that’s the answer to a question. ‘Is God real — even though you can’t see Him?’” They may say yes, or they may say no. But you can tell them, “Kids, just like air — God is there.” You might even want to read them Colossians 1:15:
Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. — (Phillips)
“We can’t see God the Father – but we got to see Jesus. And now, even though Jesus has gone back up to Heaven, He is still real. And still here.”
Next, you could also tell them what my grandmother told me. “John, the day will come when I’m not here and I’m up in Heaven with Jesus.” (She was dying of pancreatic cancer, and I was eight years old.) “Just because you can’t see something, like Jesus or Heaven, or my love when I’m up in Heaven – they’re all real.”
4. Read them their own “hero’s journey” book — with their name written all over it.
Here’s a last suggestion on something small you can do with a child who needs some attention and has some time for you to read to him or her (think about The Princess Bride and reading to a not super-sick but still stuck-at-home kid). Read your grandchild a book (and if you can, purchase it as a gift) that has a pronounced hero or heroine in it. But each time that character’s name comes up in the book, change that character’s name to your grandchild’s name.
Take the Chronicles of Narnia. The second book in that wonderful children’s series is the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. (You can get it online for only a few dollars.) Let’s say you have a granddaughter. In that book, Lucy is not only a main character but is very smart and brave. And so, too, will be your granddaughter (let’s call her Heather). As you read, every time Lucy’s name appears in the book, point to your granddaughter and substitute “Heather” for Lucy.
It’s Heather who meets Mr. Beaver. It’s Heather who runs from the White Witch. It’s Heather who meets Aslan the great lion. It’s a small way to say to a grandchild, “I see something special inside of you.” And forever that book can be something on her shelf that makes her say, “My grandmother read me that book. And she thought I was as brave and kind as Lucy.”
5. Finally, don’t forget your kids.
Sometimes it’s much easier to bless our grandkids than it is to bless our own kids. This is especially true in relationships with our adult kids where there may be layers of hurt or emotional distance.
However, by forgetting to bless our own children, we can inadvertently cause pain in that relationship and drive a wedge between us and them. Or we create a much bigger wedge — or, in some cases, a Grand Canyon-size hole.
So no matter how much fun you are having with your grandkids, don’t forget their parents! Go back through this list and make sure that you are still taking time to bless your kids — just as much time as you spend blessing your grandchildren.
No matter what age or stage of life, we all need to know that we have the Blessing. Especially from our parents.
Excerpted with permission from The Blessing by John Trent, Gary Smalley, and Kari Trent Stageberg, copyright John Trent and Kari Trent Stageberg.
What are some things that are holding you back from blessing your grandkids? (e.g., lack of time, not knowing how, fear, etc.) What is one way you can overcome the challenges? Come share with us on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily
Dr. John Trent is an award-winning author of marriage and family books such as The Blessing. He is the creator of the Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, and Beaver (LOGB) way of looking at personalities. He is the President of StrongFamilies.com and the Center for StrongFamilies both are organizations committed to strengthening marriage and family relationships worldwide. He and his wife Cindy have been married for 30 years and have two daughters Kari and Laura.