by Mary Ellen Tippin
My grandmothers were as different as night and day. My Grandma Vander Wilt was stern and stoic. She rarely smiled at me and never gave me hugs or kisses. My Grandma Gertsma was as sweet and warm as a sunny summer’s day. I was rather intimately acquainted with both of them because I grew up less than a block from their homes, which were right next to each other. I saw them nearly every day.
Of course, the warmer of the two grandmothers created more affection for her in my heart, nevertheless, each is a part of my memories and has had a strong influence in my life.
Most of us would probably like to imagine ourselves to be like my Grandma Gertsma, who was always tending her flowers and telling me to look at their sweet little faces, but in reality some of us are a bit more like my Grandma Vander Wilt, a little more serious and less cheery.
The moment we become grandparents, should we begin transforming ourselves into some notion of the ideal grandparent—the kind of grandparent we think we should be—rather than the kind we are? What if it is possible to be ourselves, with all our strengths and weaknesses, and still be good grandparents—the kind our grands will love and remember fondly?
How can we be really good grandparents, regardless of our personality?
٠ Most importantly, we can love our grandchildren unconditionally.
This means our acceptance and affection for them isn’t based on how they perform in school, in music, in sports, etc. Parents often fixate on their children’s achievements or lack of them. And it’s definitely good to celebrate children’s successes. Yet everyone wants love that doesn’t depend on their performance. As grandparents we can love that child no matter how smart, how athletic, how musical that child happens to be. We can love them just because they are ours. This is a gift any grandparent can give.
٠ We can give our time to our grandchildren.
Time is one of our most precious commodities, and because of our age and stage in life we often have more optional time as we grow older. We get to choose how we will spend our days and hours. Why not invest in these grandchildren with that time, giving them a gift that costs so little monetarily but is priceless to a child?
٠ We can give them what our unique personality has to offer.
We may not be overly sweet and loving, but our grandchildren need what we can give. Let’s look at some examples:
One grandfather has been extremely successful in the business world, and he has a bunch of grandsons. They have begun a business together—growing, marketing, and selling pumpkins each fall. He is playing toward his strengths and giving invaluable time and expertise to his grandsons.
My own mother wasn’t particularly warm, but memories of her excellent meals, homemade dresses and doll clothes will never be forgotten. They act as an inspiration to her grandchildren who may have similar interests.
My husband is something of a yard man. Each summer he has several of our grandchildren over, teaching them how to mow, trim, mulch and a host of other skills. Then they stay for lunch and we get to visit and spend time with them, sharing life together.
For me personally, I will never be the “grandma camp” type of grandmother, where the grandkids are staying over at our house for days at a time. But I love to read and sing, and I’m fairly certain my grandchildren will associate certain books and songs with their time with me as children when they become adults. My hope is they will share these same books and songs with their children and grandchildren.
I could give example after example of grandparents who, instead of feeling inadequate and paralyzed with doubts about their abilities or lack thereof, use their own personalities and strengths to nurture their grandchildren.
So free your mind from some preconceived ideal and enjoy being yourself as a grandparent. Give your love, your time, your talents to your grands and there will be blessings and joy all around now and in generations to come.
Mary Ellen Tippin is author of eight children’s books. (Find out more at maryellentippin.com.) In addition to writing, she enjoys music, flowers, hosting people in her home, and influencing her ever-growing number of grandchildren. She and her husband, RJ, live near Newton, KS.