by Dr. Ken Canfield

Earlier this month, Michelle and I spent eleven days caring for three of our grandchildren at their home while their parents had some needed time away. It was an early Christmas celebration and a very rewarding one.

I came away as one tired Granddad. (Apparently grandparent babysitting burnout is a thing!) But what I gleaned and received from being present and engaged with my grandchildren was unforgettable.

For example, those days really made me appreciate any grandparents who are raising their grandkids or caring for them many hours each week. The amount of energy necessary to keep up with them that long definitely takes a toll. I salute you for giving your time and life to serve in this God-assigned redemptive role.

Also, I salute all the mothers of our grandchildren who are working moms. Whether it’s part-time or full-time work, adding that to your commitment as a mom is admirable—and I know many dads are in similar situations. Your dedication to being a parent is incredible. Keep up the good work!

Here are 12 Gifts I Received from My Grandkids.

The eleven days we spent caring for them were a reminder of the richness that grandkids and grandparents contribute to a dynamic family life. Some of the gifts were surprises, but all were examples of what God has planned for us as we age well.

1. The Gift of Touch

Grandchildren like to touch, and that’s good news. The warmth of hugs and high fives helps to bond the generations. It’s revitalizing to be knitted to our grands as they easily embrace us, seeking comfort and affirmation.

2. The Gift of Play

We played lots of games, and that means there are winners and losers. What a joy it is to lose to a formidable opponent. I’d forgotten how losing to your grandchild in a board game or activity makes their eyes shine brightly. Sometimes even losing can be a gift.

3. The Gift of Being Spoiled

Usually it’s the grandparents who spoil the grandkids … and there was plenty of that. But we also felt spoiled in many ways as we enjoyed foods we don’t normally eat, and had treats and snacks in addition to meals multiple times each day. Clearly, taking those habits home with us would not be good for our health, but enjoying them while we were there was awesome.

4. The Gift of Simplicity

Many of the regular activities felt like a return to the basics of life: reading books, taking them to piano lessons, or helping them with homework or another project. As grandparents, too often our lives are complex—but not so with young, eager minds. Simple can be a welcome, refreshing change.

5. The Gift of Routine

Having a schedule was vital to help us keep everything and everyone in sync, especially with young grandkids. I often said to them, “If you plan your work and work that plan, most times that plan will work.” And as they grow and eventually leave the nest someday, having clear guidelines and expectations will prepare them for life.

6. The Gift of the Unexpected

Life happens, and this example is embarrassing. As my son and daughter-in-law were pulling out of the driveway and heading to their destination, their three children lined up on the driveway and were going to run to the end of the block while waving and shouting good-bye. Well, this granddad decided to run with them, and I even picked up my five-year-old granddaughter, only to trip and fall on the concrete sidewalk. Fortunately, I was able to protect her from injury, but I had scraped hands, knees and arms. Thankfully it wasn’t worse.

7. The Gift of Childlike Faith

“And a child will lead them.” Each day we read scriptures and prayed with our grandkids, and their responses and insights were often profound. Seeing the light of Jesus dawn in their eyes was inspiring, and one of the best gifts we could receive.

8. The Gift of Teamwork

Having a passionate grandmother beside me was a huge blessing. Much like my experiences years ago as a father of five, we would put our grandkids to bed and then reflect together on their personalities and potential, and pray for those three young lives. Being part of a grandparent duo makes a tremendous difference.

9. The Gift of Laughter

It’s an incredible gift! After eleven days, I could have hosted an episode of Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things. We laughed so hard about the silliest things that we lost control, and then coaxing them on was a treat. What a euphoric way to bond with grandkids.

10. The Gift of Sharing Heritage

It’s deeply satisfying to tell stories and talk about family history, and those opportunities were abundant. Our curious grandchildren were eager to hear about their cousins who live far away, about our own lives when we were their age, and best of all, about their parents when they were growing up.

11. The Gift of Sharing Their World

Spending that much time with our grandkids allowed us to be thoroughly immersed in their world. We got them ready for school, took them to church, drove them to lessons, and met their friends. Those were fun and important reference points for us. Now, whenever we Facetime or Zoom with them, we’ll have memories to build on and context to help us ask better questions and stay connected.

12. The Gift of Future Rewards

We were truly exhausted after those eleven days, and we cherished the full night of sleep when it was over. Our energy was restored for the challenges of the coming days, and we came away with an epiphany: Someday in the future, if we wear ourselves out caring for and investing in those priceless lives, we hope to hear:

“Well done, faithful grandparent. I entrusted you with much and you’ve cared for those grandchildren well. Enter into an eternity of rest.”

What gifts do you receive from time with your grandchildren?  Share your insights and stories with other grandparents on our Facebook page.