by Jay Payleitner
Adapted from his book, Hooray for Grandparents!
Have you identified a special place you can talk and dream with your grandchildren? Specifically, some place in or around your home, like a workshop, garden, home office, porch swing, or kitchen sink.
Your goal is to make the most of that precious time you have with those kids you love so much.
One of the secrets to identifying your special place is to find a spot where you can engage literally on the same level. Eye to eye. Shoulder to shoulder. Heart to heart.
When they’re newborns, that might be a rocking chair where you can snuggle them up in your arms, breathing in their scent and resting them on your chest. (That includes you, Grandpa!) Fresh out of the womb, babies focus best on images 8 to 15 inches (20 to 38 cm) away. That’s the distance to your face when you’re in proper snuggling position.
When they’re toddlers, getting on the same level means lying on the carpet as they race Hot Wheels, connect Legos, animate stuffed animals, or scribble masterpieces. That’s part of entering their often-magical world.
When they turn three, you’ll want to invest in two different stools. One that sits them up at your kitchen table so they can join life with the rest of the family. That’s also the stool they may drag over to sit by you at your desk or sewing machine. The second stool is 10 inches (25 cm) high. They will quickly learn to pull that step stool up to your kitchen counter or workbench. How else are they going to learn to crack an egg, roll out pizza dough, or pound a nail? Mom and Dad may not have time for such nonsense.
But teaching your grandchild a critical life skill might be the most important (and most enjoyable) thing you do this month.
Seeing eye to eye becomes even more critical (and rewarding) when they are actually the same height as you. Those intentional connections during their newborn, toddler, and school-age years are hugely important for setting the tone for future conversations. More times than you might think, grandparents will be a guiding light for a middle schooler or high schooler navigating tough life transitions.
Time spent with a teenage grandchild may still be in the kitchen, garden, or workshop, and it may still involve some kind of cooking, planting, or construction project, but those young people know it’s about more than that.
That’s why they love to hang out with you.
At Grandma’s or Grandpa’s house, they are counting on life lessons and lessons about life overlapping. Over the years, you have demonstrated that life goes on when you burn a pie crust or hit your thumb with a hammer. That’s good to know when a young person gets dumped by a girlfriend or cut from a basketball team.
You have earned the right to look them in the eye and say something heartfelt like,
“Well that’s not good. But you know what? Our family has a history of handling disappointments pretty well and we usually find something even better right around the next corner.”
Coming from Mom or Dad, that kind of advice can sound lame. But from grandparents—seeing eye-to-eye and speaking heart-to-heart—those words sound like wisdom for the ages and can make a world of difference.
Where’s the special place you share your heart and make memories with your grandson or granddaughter? Let us know on our Facebook page here.
Jay Payleitner is a best-selling author of Hooray for Grandparents! and more than a dozen other books on marriage, family, and doing life right including 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, 52 Ways to Connect as a Couple, and What If God Wrote Your Bucket List? He and his wife, Rita, live near Chicago, where they’ve raised five great kids (and now have eight grandkids) and have loved on ten foster babies. For information on booking Jay to speak at your next event, visit jaypayleitner.com.