As we finished up the first draft of our Grandparenting LifeGuide, Phyllis said, “I think something is missing. I think we need to deal with grandparents often inundating their grandchildren with big, expensive gifts. But all I can think of is something that has to do with materialism. Yet that doesn’t seem quite right.”
she asked a friend about this who said, “Oh, you mean contentment.” And that was it. So we included a study based on 1 Timothy 6:2-10 encouraging this.
It’s just so easy to flood our grandchildren with toys, video games, huge stuffed animals and more. We want to make sure they know we love them, and so we pour on the gifts. But what is true with adults is true with children. When we are deluged with things, we tend to expect more and more all the while becoming less and less satisfied.
We asked one set of grandparents how they deal with this, and they said they try to give their grandchildren experiences rather than lots of gifts all the time. Skipping stones in a pond together can bring joy for hours and memories for a lifetime. Going for a bike ride together gets everyone outdoors enjoying the sun and wind (and sometimes rain)–and no one even thinks they are also getting exercise.
flying kites when I was a kid, so I enjoy taking my grandchildren to a park and seeing how high we can fly them. Not only are we having fun, but I’m interacting with them, teaching them, helping them learn how to use their bodies to work with the wind.
Phyllis and I love reading books to them. We sit close together and give them the gift of imagination and exploration. We show rather than tell how we value books and learning. Even more, we show them our love by giving them the gift of our time.
Once Phyllis asked our grandson Luke if he wanted her to read to him. No, he said, he wasn’t in the mood. But he was bored and didn’t quite know what to do with himself. So, sitting alone on the couch, Phyllis decided to just start reading aloud. Soon Luke left what he was playing with and stood next to her, listening. Before long, he was in her lap.
One goal we have is to take each of our grandchildren on a big overnight, weekend trip about the time they turn ten. When we took two who were at that age, we had a six-hour car ride to our destination. We put on the audio book of Harry Potter, and they were entranced. They weren’t glued to their video games or griping about how long the trip was. In fact, they couldn’t wait to get in the car each time so we could start the story again. And Phyllis and I enjoyed it too.
With several grandchildren at a distance, we have even read books to them over Skype, taking time to show them the pictures. And we’ve read chapter books to them. They would look forward to our next Skype visit so we could read the next chapter or two. Of course, as they get older, they read to us.
Our own stories can also be a great source of fascination and entertainment. They are often curious to hear about things we did growing up–or perhaps even more hear about when their own parents were their age. “Did I tell you about the time your dad wanted to play Superman and jumped off the dresser hitting his head on the bed? It took eight stiches to close the wound.”
the best experiences are just letting the grandkids hang out with us. When I work in the yard, they often want to help. So I’ll show them how to weed, do some raking, or give them other jobs appropriate to their age.
They are fascinated when I do home repairs. I try not to chase them away but let them carry tools or whatever they can. And I try to interact with them, explaining what I’m doing and why. As a bonus, when they get older, they can actually be very helpful. But even better than that, they may remember those times more than the expensive gifts that are soon set aside. The gift of focused attention can express love to them deeply in a way that reaches them.
Playing frisbee, taking them on a half-birthday breakfast, giving the gift of books, listening to their stories, and when visiting, getting up early in the morning with them before the parents are awake to spend a quiet hour together–all these and more are ways we can say we love our grandchildren. In do so we avoid the trap of training them to always want more and help nurture contentment.