They will tire you to the bone, break your stuff and trash your clean house, but there is nothing sweeter than the innocence of a child. Wet cement we get to put our fingerprints on. A hungry heart, ready to absorb all we are, all we give. A little friend, eager for our companionship in a cold and lonely world. Treasures without measure are these little people.
If you’re privileged to be a grandparent, here are 6 keys to building a positive, rich relationship with your precious little person.
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff…(it’s all small stuff). Spilled juice, broken dishes, scratched doors, stained clothes – does any of it really matter? If you’ve got a Hummel you’re saving to sell for retirement, hide it somewhere safe of course, but when you boil it down, most of your worldly goods are probably like mine – fairly worthless.
Hubby surprised me with a pair of polarized Roxy supercool sunglasses. One day at the park as I was rushing to make sure my granddaughter got the last available swing (Rawr!) they flew from my head to the concrete and incurred permanent scratches. I winced as I scooped them up for inspection. Did I act irritated and pissy? Of course not! Put it all in perspective. Guard those nasty negative auto-reactions of impatience and aggravation when your stuff gets ruined. Value those kids more than your junk.
2. Be a Good Friend:
For a season our oldest and only grandchild had a standing date with us on Wednesdays while her Mama held a part-time job. One day my 18-year old son commented, “when I hear you guys talking in the kitchen, it sounds like you’re talking to your little sister.” Even at age 3, she and I could already carry on a meaningful conversation. I realized I was enjoying a very satisfying friendship at a particular level with this vibrant toddler, and I treated her with gentleness, respect, and lots of laughter as I would any friend. As I cared for her, she became my best little friend, and to this day, we share a special bond that I endeavor to nurture.
3. Be Prepared: My granddaughters were coming for lunch with their mommy last week, so I prepped everything ahead of time. Firstly I didn’t want to be in another room working and stressing out when they arrived, robbing me of just ‘being’ with them, and two, it seems to me that when we prepare for others it makes them feel special. Was it an extravagant lunch? No. Simple organic turkey and cheese sandwiches, chips, fresh veggies and fruit.
I pulled out two colorful, divided plates, cut the crust off the bread in Nanny fashion, and added a yummy dip to the veggie crudités, arranging everything attractively. To put the bow on top, I took out two clear little cups and created ‘mocktails’ with sparkling water, juice and a fresh lemon slice. When my oldest granddaughter walked in and saw this simple display, her face lit up and my heart melted. Score!
It’s also helpful to arrange a few items in advance they can be occupied with such as puzzles, crayons and paper, little cars, building blocks or a whiteboard and markers. They can freely gravitate toward these items without asking, entertaining and contenting themselves. I also put my phone on silent and clear my mind, my schedule, and my tablespace of ‘work.’
4. Be Cheerful and Buoyant Life is generally stressful and filled with challenges of all kinds. In the presence of your ‘littles,’ choose to live with a smile on your face despite your problems and irritations. Bounce above the bumps you encounter together. Practice looking on the bright side. Fix your mind and your mouth on this ‘habit of happy,’ leaving your grandchildren with reflections of a Nana or Papa who was consistently full of grace.
If we’re grumpy grandparents, we leave a stain upon the memories we make with these little ones. Recognize moodiness and depression as predators who will rob your priceless relationship to your grands.
5. You Can’t Hide Your Crap from Your Grandkids
Robert Fulghum says, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Kids are incredibly discerning. During my sons’ growing up years, I made it my aim not to engage in gossip or expose them to extended family drama, always wanting them to see the best in others, and to shield them from unsavory issues. I was later enlightened to realize their keen sense of intuition was like constant radar, picking up the vibes, good or bad in those around them.
The late Carrie (Reynolds) Fisher, Princess Leia of Star Wars fame and daughter of 1950s megastar Debbie Reynolds, illustrates this fact with a vivid memory of her grandmother in her book, The Princess Diarist.
One day when I was about 12 I was sitting on my grandmother’s lap – not a good idea at any age given that Maxine Reynolds was, to say the least, not a cuddly woman – when she suddenly asked my actress-mother, Debbie Reynolds, “Hey did you ever get those tickets to Annie that I asked you for?” She regarded my mother with suspicious eyes. (My grandmother had three looks: glaring suspiciously, glaring hostilely, and glaring with disappointment.)
“I’m sorry, Mama,” my mother responded, “Is there another show you want to see? Annie seems to be sold out for the whole month. I’ve tried everywhere.”
My grandmother pursed her lips, giving the appearance of someone who smelled something bad. Then she pushed air out of her nose and pronounced a very disappointed, “hmmmmmmmm,” and ended with, “it used to be something to be Debbie Reynolds in this town, now she can’t even get a few measly show tickets.” I involuntarily squeezed my grandmother as if to do so would push all future demeaning remarks out of her stocky little body.
A sad story and all too common. Our grandchildren not only ‘hear’ what we say, but they observe and absorb so much more than that. Let’s be the best version of ourselves when we spend time with them, and work to become what we want them to be.
6. Seize the Day: Recently our oldest granddaughter, Jael, commented about her younger sister.
”Sienna was really into Elmo…but that’s OVER.”
And just like that, my 7 year-old prodigy granddaughter set me straight on the bittersweet fact that our little Sienna is growing up and slammed the door on her ‘two’s’ without a thought of our pain. All-too-soon blankies and rocking sessions are gonna go, too. Boo-hoo.
Pardon my cliche, Nana and Papa but time is flying! This season of opportunity to build a relationship with your magical grandchildren will be gone in a minute. Everything changes in the tweens as their world widens and their lives get populated by so many others. Build a foundation that can last a lifetime **NOW** while your grands still think you’re the sun, moon and stars!
I see grand parenting as a second chance to impact the world. Another level of parenting that is, indeed, grand. How could men or women in midlife ignore such a great calling as this, the role of grandfather or grandmother, trading it for temporal pleasures of distraction?
Your Two-Minute Takeaway
- Which point spoke loudly to your spirit? Jot down the words that jumped out at you while you read this post and determine what adjustments you can make today to enhance your relationship with your grands.
- Do you live long distance from them? Consider FaceTime or Skype so you can interact, read them stories and share in their realtime lives. Look ahead and book an airline reservation or a road trip as often as you’re able, so you get it on the calendar and make it happen.
- Create little coupons for them to redeem special times with you like baking cookies, shopping for toys/trinkets at Dollar Tree, seeing a matinee or playing and picnicking at the park and remember to use them!
- Are your grandkids older and you long to make up for lost time? Don’t delay. Children are forgiving and flexible. Don’t let your insecurities and guilt keep you at a distance. Find what they’re interested in and nurture that desire whether it be crafting, electronics, the beach, music or horses. Find a way to spend time with them enjoying these things together.
Thank you for reading, I’m truly honored. If you’d like to read more, subscribe for my updates and grab my spring freebie, 7 Steps to Cure an Unhappy Kid and Revolutionize Your Home Life by clicking HERE.