“But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
“Nana! Come and watch me do gymnastics!” (Translation: “Watch me jump from sofa to chair to floor, sticking the landing like Simone Biles! Sorta.”)
“Pa, I made a drawing for you! Do you see where it says, ‘I love Pa?’” (The random scribble in the lower left corner? Works for his grandpa!)
Where did the time go? Those tiny guys we chased (and sometimes chastised) and loved beyond imagination are now grown-ups with partners and babies of their own. After years of swearing that we are way too young to be grandparents, it suddenly feels so right to fill that role.
As grandparents, we enjoy living in the moment as children do, because we know how quickly those moments fly by.
Have you ever heard someone say, “If only I could be a kid again, but knowing what I know now”? Well, you can, in a way, as a grandparent. The bond with our grandchildren feels much like long-distance travel. If you are 10,000 miles away from home and keep traveling around the globe, you start to get closer to home again. As we interact, our memories become clearer (often clearer than last night’s dinner), and it’s easier to recall the ups and downs of childhood.
Grandparenting helps us slow down. Alongside our grandchildren, we can again experience the expansiveness of a summer afternoon and relish the warmth of the sun on our faces.
We understand the needs of children, who rely on their grown-ups for food, shelter and safe passage. We are becoming a bit more dependent—on knee replacements and bifocals, and maybe even a steadying arm as we navigate a crowded street.
At the same time, our differences are bittersweet: as our grands discover all they can do and be, we grapple with new physical limitations and letting go of some expectations or dreams. We enjoy living in the moment as children do, because we know how quickly those moments fly by. All the more reason to cherish the time God has given us.
A meaningful call
Every era has had its crises, when God’s people worried about the future of the planet. When we boomers were kids, we crouched under school desks for protection from nuclear fallout (did anyone honestly think that would work?) and were parented by those who had lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Today, our precious grandchildren endure regular active-shooter drills and will inherit a climate crisis. We read our science fiction and watch “Star Trek” movies, but we still don’t have a clue what our grandchildren’s future will look like.
The more we try to look ahead, the more agitated we become. The more helpless we feel, the more desperate we are that their later years will be bright ones, somehow.
As kids, we crouched under school desks for protection from nuclear fallout. Today, our precious grandchildren endure active-shooter drills and will inherit a climate crisis.
So, what can we do for our little loves?
Perhaps the question is not what we can do, but what God calls us to do.
The prophet Ezekiel tells us: “And I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30).
We can stand in the breach for our grandchildren. Pray hard for them and for the unknown challenges ahead. We can also share with them our faith stories, table graces, bedtime prayers and what being God’s beloved children means to us. And, with help from the Spirit, those messages of trust and hope will travel with them, far into a future we can’t even picture.
My own Nana died 50 years ago, but I still remember much about her: her April Violets cologne, her cleverness at card games and crossword puzzles, her strong faith, her boundless kindness. I think of her every day, and I try to live up to expectations she had for me and my sisters.
Fifty years passed quickly. I am well past the 10,000-mile point in my life’s journey. Now when I travel, my dear little grands often hold my hand, stopping me to notice a butterfly or a cloud formation, then tugging me onward.
Though I know we must part ways at some point, I thank God for my small soulmates, walking with me for a stretch while my road bends at last toward home.