With thirteen grandkids, Phyllis and I thought we had plenty of experience as we started writing the Grandparenting LifeGuide Bible study. But we decided to interview other grandparents to see what wisdom they might have to offer as well. We certainly learned a lot.
we were talking with several wise grandparents when the topic of the parenting style of their adult children came up. “Oh,” said one active and involved grandmother, “I would never ever say a word to my children or their spouses about how to parent. I’d never give any suggestion unless they asked explicitly.” All the heads around the room nodded up and down as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Erring on the side of caution makes sense. For years we’ve been in the pattern of giving guidance to our children, but when they become adults and get married, they are now the ones with the primary responsibility for their own children. We are not. We are now in a supportive role. It’s time for us to change our patterns, and that can take some work.
As we talked more with these friends, a couple issues came into focus. First, our relationship with our grandchildren is not just about them and us. How we relate with their parents is key. Having a healthy, open, forgiving relationship with the parents is the doorway into a warm relationship with our grandchildren.
Two sets of grandparents we know went for a period of years without being able to see some of their grandchildren. The reason was trouble in the relationship with the parents. Without rancor or accusation, but through prayer, kindness, and gentle persistence, they were finally able to reconnect.
second thing that came to mind was how important it is to realize that there is wide range of legitimate, positive, nurturing parenting styles. There is not just one right way to parent.
Think about how you and your spouse were parented. Probably very differently. Maybe one of you had laissez-faire parents and the other had strict parents. Maybe one set focused on sports and the other on academics. Maybe one of you was taken to church and the other not. But hey, you both turned out to be rather normal, mature adults! (OK, reasonably normal.)
Your adult children may have different styles of parenting than you. Odds are, their children will turn out just fine. So there’s little need to try to shape how they parent. Love covers a multitude of styles.
Certainly there are tragic situations where abuse or abandonment may require grandparents to take on a legal role in raising grandchildren. But apart from those types of situations, when we recognize that there are many right ways to love a child, we can focus our comments on what we can affirm instead of what we see to be wrong.
We had already planned to include sessions in our guide on how we bless and nurture our grandchildren. But because of the grandparents we talked with, we also included discussions on how we relate to our adult children and the need for us to bless them as they lead their families. We were glad we asked.