Today I write to young parents and grandparents. On this vacation, we once again took our grandchildren with us. We left their parents at home.
It always brings a smile to my face when I am asked if they are my children. This year they will be 14 and 11. I know my age, but the ones asking are being nice or they will never win a prize at the carnival guessing ages. Regardless, we are a close family, and that brings more joy to my soul than anyone floating my boat by thinking I’m younger than I am.
We have our grandchildren a lot. I know the day is coming fast when they won’t need us, and there will be the phase when they won’t want to be around us. It’s part of growing up. Hopefully, just like the Prodigal Father in Luke 15, our love will always be a draw for them. Since we are around them a lot, we have constant conversations with other grandparents at restaurants, zoos, and just about anywhere we go.
I have not found anyone who does not love their grandkids. There is something about the phenomenon. Most like to say how much fun it is to actually have fun with them. They like the idea of spoiling them with all sorts of candy, cake and things that make them go wild, and then sending them back to their parents.
Many like to comment about spoiling them with just about anything they want. That is probably a bit too much, but let’s face it, as grandparents we finally can spoil the grandkids. I hope our grandkids don’t like us because we give them things. I hope they know we truly love them through thick and thin.
Often, I can get grandparents to pause and think for a few minutes. Being a grandparent is a time we can actually parent well. I like to tell them it’s an opportunity to get right with kids based on what we did wrong as parents. Just last night I had this conversation with a happy couple coming out of the restaurant. I told them one of the things I did not do as a parent, but I do as a grandparent, is much better listen. I listen longer and deeper at the same time.
I listen because I now have the time to see life through their eyes. When I was a parent, I really didn’t care about how they saw life. I wanted them to see something they could not. I wanted them to see life through my eyes. I feel my life was so rushed with work, church and life that I wanted the quick parenting method: “Do as I say, not what I do.” That was bad to horrible parenting. Now, as a grandparent, I listen for a change.
I listen to learn and see where I can help them learn. I learn more from listening to them than at any other time in my life. Life changes. We like to think it doesn’t, but it does. We like to find our comfortable culture and stay cemented in it. I want to listen to my music. I want to read my books. I want to do life like “the good old days.” Only now, my grandkids are the “good old days.” So, I learn about culture and the world around me when I listen intently to them. The first thing we had to do was open the lines of communication.
When I listen, I can find the areas in life where they need help. I like to blame their parents. But then again, they are no different than when I was their age. Living to pay the bills. Living to give their children the best life they think they need.
Now listen, young parents. Listen closely. All the do-this and do-that will not give them the life they need. The life they need is one where we shut our mouths at the right time and open our ears to see their life.
Grandparents do it. We do it because we now know (wisdom) where we went wrong. We thought money was the best thing we could give them. We thought the latest of anything was what we and they were to live for. We thought…wrongly.
The evil forces of this world love to work at the extremes in this battle. Parents who don’t encourage their children forward in life can create a major problem. Parents who overstimulate their child can create an even bigger problem. It’s due to the inability to listen well on both ends of the spectrum.
What a child needs more than anything is to have those who say they love them listen to them. Young parents, slow the train down some and take the time to listen to your kids. Find out what they see and value. It might surprise you. What might happen is they don’t necessarily need to change, but you do. Maybe that is why we don’t listen well. What they say may hit too close to home.
John Ring is director of Hope for the Community. He can be reached at [email protected]