Times have changed from the familiar scenario of our youth. Then, our grandparents were likely settled in their comfortable retirement location, often in the countryside, readily accessible to the family with a short afternoon drive.
But today you might be like us—working past the big 65, with the shortest distance to the nearest grandchild a full day’s drive away. The furthest grandchild is accessible by plane or telephone; however, the telephone conversations are fairly one-sided since he or she is just putting sentences together.
When these rare visits occur, focus on the hours you will have together.
Somewhere between the former concept and the present reality, those grandchildren are out there and needing Papa and Nana. What can we do to supply the experiences and memories these blessings from God will need as they mature to meet life on life’s demanding terms?
Cards, birthdays, other gifts and phone calls (when they are old enough to converse) will help establish communication, but nothing can beat quality visits, when the opportunity presents itself.
Planning for special visits
When we do have the opportunity to spend time with the grandchildren, are old habits of “go watch TV or play in the other room” perpetuated? Or does something special happen when they come to Grandpa and Grandma’s house?
A major part of success depends on the planning for these occasions. When these rare visits occur, focus on the hours you will have together. Rearrange your schedule, plan the things you can share, and establish and reinforce values and habits that are fun and help form character.
In our home, I have a room full of sticks and strings (handcrafted bows and arrows). A growing number of “kid” bows are materializing. On the next visit with our preschool grandsons (and granddaughter), I plan to take them to a field to find adventure by shooting arrows into evil tree stumps and the occasional fierce-looking hay bale. Such are targets and fair game for the novice hunters.
If that’s not your thing, what is? How about a trip to the zoo, astronomy or maybe you would like to offer a painting or sculpting session? How about the dreams you have pursued throughout your lifetime? Have you been a pilot, a craftsman, an inventor? What about the principles you had to learn to succeed in life?
Crafts and the use of one’s hands are fascinating to most preschool children and preteens. It doesn’t have to be hockey, football or video games. Most anything can be awesome to young children if grandparents are involved with them.
If you are blessed to still be on the farm or horse ranch, you have a ready-made land of adventure for children.
If you are blessed to still be on the farm or horse ranch, you have a ready-made land of adventure for children. Jumping out of bed on a frosty morning, breaking the ice on watering troughs or carrying warm water to the animals or chickens is great stuff for kids. (It can be a bit different from the adult point of view, but it was once an adventure for us too.) Further, exploring God’s creation is a wondrous experience when it is explained in a context of living things. Even the animals cooperate in this, since they are alive and responsive to touch and the presence of humans.
Through all this, godly values are reinforced by active use. Patience, determination, responsibility, compassion and sometimes pity are experienced in the life cycle of the creatures being cared for. One of the greatest principles is also developed—respect. It has been stated that a child who grows up with respect for others and their property will develop respect for God and His laws.
Like handcrafted arrows
In conclusion, an analogy close to many of us who enjoy using sticks and strings. The arrow is an extension of the archer. As God uses us to bend the bow of love and instruction, the arrows (our children and grandchildren) are sent speedily to their mark (God’s family).
A handcrafted arrow, like a child or grandchild, is created slowly from a raw, imperfect shaft of wood. It is carefully dried, sanded and straightened by repeated caressing of the archer’s skillful hands, then sealed against the elements that will cause distortion. Design and decoration are then added, setting proper weight to the arrowhead. Then the stabilizing fletching (feathers) are attached.
These are all personally and carefully accomplished by touch and persistence. No machines wanted here. No video games of distraction, no distance or mass production methods of any kind. The bow is improved and the arrow designed in the same mind-set as the Master Potter improving the work of His hands.
So, in this analogy, it is possible for a less-than-perfect bow to learn and to send a more perfected arrow surely to its mark. How far will the arrow travel with surety and penetrating force before gravity (or, cares) pull it to the ground short of the mark? That depends on the effort put into the draw by the archer.
Proverbs 23:26, challenges youth to “give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” We, as the “old ones,” need to be ready to give them good reason to give us their minds and emotions for training. Malachi 4:6 asks fathers to turn their hearts to the children and surely the hearts of the children will turn to the fathers—and especially to the grandparents. They’re great folks and have so much to offer!