Grandparents can, over time, earn the right to be one of the most significant advisors and confidantes to their grandchildren. I once heard James Dobson say that each time you give time and attention to your child from age 0-12, you earn an invisible token. He went on to explain that at age 12, you begin to spend those tokens, and the secret to surviving the teenage years is to have enough tokens to last until they turn 20. I believe the same principle is true with our relationship with our grandkids. If we have been faithful to celebrate their uniqueness, claim teachable moments, and consistently love their parents, they are predisposed to trust and talk to us at times when they may not even confide in their parents. We will then have earned the right to speak into and influence some of the most critical decisions of their lives.
Kurt Bruner, one of our staff members, tells of how important “Grandpa Otis and Grandma Gail” have been in the lives of his own children. Kurt’s wife Olivia lost her father during childhood and her mother years ago, so their children have no maternal grandparents. But they do have “adopted” grandparents in Otis and Gail Ledbetter. Otis and Gail have never lived close to the Bruner children, but they have played the part of surrogate grandparents nonetheless. For example, whenever Otis is in town for business he stays with the Bruners. But no meetings are scheduled until after keeping a tradition that has become sacred to the Bruner children. Grandpa Otis always makes time to take them to breakfast at the restaurant of their choice (a.k.a. McDonalds) in order to talk about whatever they want to share. Otis doesn’t have an agenda or a list of important themes to discuss. He just listens, affirms and answers any questions the kids might have. What’s the point of the tradition? In his words, “I’m earning the right while they are young to influence them when they are older.” Two of those boys are now young men and both consider Grandpa Otis one of the most influential figures in their lives!
Like all relationships, grandparenting can become complicated. There are obstacles to overcome, personalities of both parents and grandchildren to navigate (not to mention our own). Divorce and custody, lifestyle, religion, and conflicting values can all make it more difficult. Yet God tells us that we must make relationships “priority one” if we hope to have impact with the next generation.
Heroic Grandfather Challenge #5: Fill in the blanks: “I will give my NAME EACH GRANDCHILD a safe place to talk by DEFINE ROUTINE OR CONTEXT.”
Find more ideas at the INTENTIONAL GRANDFATHERS page.