Grandparents Day is always the first Sunday after Labor Day. Not much attention is paid to that day, probably because every day with a grandparent is a celebration. Being a grandparent is a time of deep joy and intense pleasure, in spite of aches and pains that come with aging. Even so it’s good to keep in mind this statement by Gene Perret: “An hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again. Anything longer than that, and you start to age quickly.”
We’ve been grandparents now for over twenty-five years, and we’ve learned a few things about this “high calling” along the way. We continue to learn and grow in it, which we find is now starting into the fourth generation, if we start counting with ourselves. That’s right—we’re great grandparents. Interestingly, our youngest grandchild (three years old) is twelve days younger than our great grandson. And any minute our third great grandchild will be born (a baby sister for our six-year-old great granddaughter), and we can hardly wait. We’re loving it. Of course, we’re scratching our heads and wondering how this happened so fast. Aren’t we too young? Nope. One look in the mirror confirms it.
What is it we enjoy so much about these fifteen grandchildren and nearly three greats? Easy. Just being with them, playing with them, listening, sharing stories, teaching them the joys of the gospel, as well as the sorrows of wrong choices, helping them along their paths; plain and simply, loving them with all our hearts. And, of course, praying for them and with them. We find this whole process deeply satisfying.
I remember my own grandmother, Pearl Saunders—aptly named, a highly valued gem to all of her grandchildren. She was a chief builder of my sure foundation in living the gospel. Every time I visited her (almost always other grandchildren were there, after all I had eight siblings and numerous cousins nearby) she made certain to say something or tell a story that laid another solid brick in my foundation of faith. It never felt preachy, just inspiring and safe. I loved every visit at her house. I grew up wanting to be a grandma like her. Now’s my chance.
It helps so much to have a pattern to follow. But if you don’t, then you can be the one to create the pattern for your posterity. We’ll share a few things that we’ve learned from our own and other grandparents and some we’ve discovered on our own (with a good measure of heavenly intervention), that we hope will be helpful.
1. Realize the power of your position.
The apostle Paul helps us clearly see the importance of grandparents in his 2nd epistle to Timothy, whom he admired and loved. He said, “. . . When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (2 Timothy 1:5) It’s plain to see the important role these two women played in his life, beginning with his grandmother.
Paul later gives us specific instructions in his epistle to Titus, to the “aged men” and the “aged women” (sounds like grandparents to us). He said, “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
“Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned.” (Titus 2:4-8) By following this admonition we can significantly help our grandchildren know how to become successful and faithful individuals, husbands, wives, and parents. That seems to be our main job, and it begins from the moment they are born.
Because we are not continually hovering over them as parents do, we can be a refreshing place of refuge for them. That puts us in a position of power. It makes our moments with them more precious, more memorable, more sought after.
2. Be creative in teaching them.
Most everyone knows the power of storytelling. Children love stories. Reading to them is good, but telling first hand stories is our favorite. They especially love to hear the stories about their parents. Remember every good thing you can about your child who is their parent and tell it. Make it interesting, captivate them. Like one of our favorites: “I remember when your daddy was a little boy and he fell while riding his bike. He had been told not to go down the hill to a friend’s house, but thought it would be okay anyway. Just as he started out, he fell and skinned his knee and elbow. He came running in and said, ‘I decided to go down the hill on my bike to my friend’s house and crashed. I think it was the Holy Ghost telling me I shouldn’t go. This time I listened.’”
The kids love this story, and it usually stimulates a conversation about being obedient. We explain that usually the Holy Ghost whispers to us, rarely knocking us over. But of course, the Lord has the power to do what He needs to do. Then they start asking questions and sharing their own experiences. That’s the time to listen, with a little teaching in between.
They also want to hear about when we were young. We sometimes share some of our mistakes (not big ones) and how repentance works. Like the time when nine-year-old grandpa took a candy bar from a store without paying for it. A neighbor saw and called his mother. She met him at the door and asked if he enjoyed the candy bar. He was shocked. She took him back to pay for it. That ended his shoplifting career. They can hardly imagine that their strong, faithful grandfather would do such a thing. It helps them see that everyone can repent and do better.
Our most favorite thing is to tell them faith-promoting experiences that have happened to us or our progenitors. Sometimes we show them the picture of the person we’re talking about. They are riveted during these stories. There are many and they know them by heart. Sometimes they request certain ones saying, “Tell me the one about when great grandpa was being forced by some bad boys to smoke, and how the Lord answered his prayer and he got away.” Or “Tell the one about great great grandma when she got a blessing for her hurt ankle.” These ancestors live on as amazing examples to our grandchildren.
When do we tell them these stories? Anytime and anywhere. Sometimes in bed with them. There have been times when as many as five grandkids have piled into our bed when we were visiting at their home or they were visiting us. It’s crowded, and fun! Sometimes it has happened in the middle of the night. We finally set a boundary and said, “You can come into our bed as soon as it starts to get light outside.
We got a better night’s sleep after that.
We keep the children’s Friend and New Era magazines coming so we can read from them to the children.
Or in a phone call refer to an article and ask if they’ve read it yet, stimulating their interest. These magazines are a great source of inspiring true stories. Along with this we are becoming familiar with the Primary Faith in God Award and are encouraging our senior Primary grandkids to work on it. (Janice Perry and I just finished a new song to inspire children to want to achieve this award. See below to download a free copy.)
Now we’re learning more about the awards our teenage grandchildren are working on — Young Women Personal Progress, Young Men Duty to God, and Eagle Scout — and encouraging them to achieve them. We know most of that responsibility lies with their parents and leaders, but an encouraging word and a little help from us might give them a needed boost. It’s good for them to know their grandparents know about these things and care. When they achieve these awards it’s important for us to acknowledge it to them in a personal way. Let them know we’re proud of their accomplishments, whatever worthy endeavor they are involved in.
3. Be in their lives, even when they live far away.
We think there should be a law against grandchildren moving away from their grandparents. All of ours live out of town, most out of state. Not fair at all! So we have to be actively engaged in thinking of ways to stay connected with them. Here are a few things we’ve come up with.
• Recently we were unable to attend our grandson’s baptism. Oh, how we wanted to be there. But since we couldn’t make the trip to Oklahoma we decided to “almost” be there. We made a video of us talking to him as though he were right there in the room with us. We told him how proud of him we were, giving specific reasons why. Then we testified of the importance of baptism, of confirmation and receiving the Holy Ghost. We shared a couple of short stories, one from the Book of Mormon. To keep it interesting we had segments where we moved from one area in our home to another, focusing sometimes on the picture of Jesus hanging on our wall. We told him of our love for him and how much we wanted to be there with him. It was about 15 minutes long. Along with it we sent the framed poem, “My Baptism” that I wrote many years ago. (All of our grandkids get their framed copy when they’re baptized. See how to get a copy below.)
We wondered how he would respond. Our son, his dad, said, “Garrett was thrilled. He kept watching the entire video with great interest. He will cherish this his whole life.” We hope he does. It took some effort to create, but was well worth it. He knew our thoughts and love were with him.
Since then we created another personalized video for a granddaughter at the time of her high school graduation. She, too, was very touched and called us, expressing her love and gratitude. There is more than one way to be present in your grandchildren’s lives.
• Call them on the phone, one-on-one. Mostly we just ask them what’s going on. The girls can talk on and on. They never seem to run out of words. The boys require a few more questions that will get them going. However, they never seem to talk as much as the girls. That’s okay. We know that most boys/men are made that way. Sometimes I just tell them an interesting experience we had. We’ve learned to keep it short, very short. What’s interesting to us isn’t always interesting to them.
Mostly we just tell them we miss them and love them and are praying for them. Consequently, as they’ve grown some of them call us for advice. We’ve heard them say, “I can’t really ask Mom or Dad about this, but what do you think I should do?” We love that they call us. We know it isn’t that Mom and Dad aren’t doing a good job, it’s just that they want another opinion they can trust. We recognize that our place is to be a second witness for their parents, so we never go against advice their parents have given them. Our most important counsel to them is to encourage them to talk it over with their parents, and pray for guidance and confirmation from the Lord.
• Occasionally we write letters—real letters that are sent with a stamp. We don’t do that often, just when we feel to praise them for an accomplishment or encourage them through a rough time. It’s easy to tell a spiritual story in a letter. They can’t resist reading it because it’s just for them. It somehow has a little more meaning than an email letter, though we have sent those on occasion, too.
• We always send them a birthday card and a gift. We used to buy gifts but now we send a fun card and money. They love to get money and buy something they really want. Along with that we call them on their birthdays and wish them a “live” happy birthday.
• We visit them and invite them to visit us. A few times we have saved up skymiles to fly a child here who seems to need some time with us, especially teens who live far away and don’t get a chance to come as much. We do our best to make it a memorable visit, including arranging fun with other extended family members, and taking lots of pictures. For example, recently we took our fourteen-year-old visiting granddaughter to a beloved aunt’s 90th birthday celebration. We wanted our granddaughter to know and remember this wonderful aunt, and told stories of the great faith she has had all her life. We took pictures of them together.
Among other things we take them to see the temple and talk about our marriage and their future marriage. We hope to cement that desire in their hearts.
After the visiting grandchild leaves we make a scrapbook with the photos and pictures of places they visited. I don’t have time or patience to get real fancy, so I make it simple, but fun. When they receive it they call and express gratitude for it. We want them to always remember our time together.
• Use technology. Facebook is a good way to keep in touch. You can find out a whole lot by looking on your grandchild’s facebook page. We’ve learned to make our FB comments to them seldom and private. We never want to embarrass them with a comment they wouldn’t want their friends to see. However, we don’t hesitate to give congratulations or a little praise where all can see.
Also, we learned that we can get a message to them quickly by texting them. Sometimes it’s just a quick word or two, like the other day on the first day of a granddaughter’s new job I texted, “You’ll do great.
You’re in our prayers. We’re so proud of you.
We love you.” She texted right back and said, “Thanks, Grandma. That means so much to me.” We don’t feel a need to do this often, but when we do we try to make it count.
We’ve learned that they don’t always show appreciation for what we do. Most do, but some don’t. Kids are all different, just like adults. We’ve decided that their response to our gifts to them has no bearing on our giving. We just keep on doing what we do so they will know our love never falters. We are there for them. We love them regardless. I think that’s how the Lord is with us.
4. Share prayers and priesthood blessings with them.
As grandparents we have the power to call down the powers of heaven to bless them. Many times we have prayed for angels to surround our grandchildren, to guard and guide them. We pray that they will listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and be guided in their choices. We pray for those who are driving age to be especially watched over, and along with this we verbally remind them to drive safely and obey the laws. One of our grandchildren told us of a near accident she had and said, “I know an angel helped me because it was like someone grabbed my steering wheel and pulled me out of the way of an oncoming car. Thank you for your prayers for me.” We know the Lord hears the prayers of devoted grandparents.
We let them know we are praying for them when they have a special need, such as an illness, a hard time at school, or other difficulties. When we are with them we find times to pray with them. Sometimes they’ll call and say, “Grandma and Grandpa, I need your prayers.” We are thrilled when they do this, and they get those prayer abundantly. When our cowboy-grandson does his bull riding competition, we pray! Oh, do we pray. Growing up in Wyoming did this to him. So we pray for his safety, and rejoice that he is a good living young man and that the Lord will watch over him. He’s growing up, almost sixteen. Can’t imagine it.
When our college-student granddaughter needed to buy a car she called for some advice. Her parents were states away, but she was near us. She’s one who avoids debt (thank goodness) and had saved for a good used car. She wanted to make sure it would work well for her and asked for our prayers to help find one. We prayed for that specific blessing, then Grandpa joined her in the search and together they found a good one. Grandpa worked with the car dealer, winning his favor, making sure the car worked well. We won’t go into detail here, but after some effort the deal was done. She has enjoyed the car and continues to express gratitude for Grandpa’s help in finding it. Prayers and some hands-on help made the difference.
Recently we received a call from a less active adult granddaughter, whom we adore, pray for, and treat as though she were active in the Church. Calling us was not unusual, but her request was. She’s asked if Grandpa would give her a blessing. We were so pleased. Our efforts have not been in vain. She knew where to turn, and that God loves her and will bless her. We never cease to have hope that one day we will all be together in the Celestial Kingdom.
That is our continual hope, and we never stop praying and working toward that eternal goal. When they live righteously and make wise choices we rejoice. When they falter along life’s journey, or go astray, we continue to love them and do all we can to gently lead them back onto the path. We know the most important thing we can do is love them and pray for them. The rest is in the Lord’s hands. We trust Him to do what we cannot do. That is what the atonement is all about.
We know we have not been perfect grandparents, and that we’ve made mistakes. But we are continually working at doing our best. We know that many of you have done much more and have your own way of showing love to your grandchildren. Every effort is profoundly important. So keep it up. Our hope with this article is to give a few ideas that may inspire grandparents everywhere in their quest to help and love their grandchildren.
We know that the real power of our influence in our grandchildren’s lives is our example and our steadfast faith in Christ. We promised this to our posterity when we were married at the alter of the Salt Lake Temple fifty-six years ago. Our life is dedicated to keeping that promise, and we pray continually to never lose sight of this. It is our hope and prayer that all grandparents remember these promises and keep them, and that God will help us all to do so.
A song for grandparents
To conclude, a few years ago Gary asked me to write a grandpa’s lullaby for him, so I wrote the words and my cousin, Janice Kapp Perry, wrote the music. Just a few days ago he sang it at our granddaughter’s baby shower, a fun way to welcome a soon-to-arrive great grandbaby. For any who are interested, here are the lyrics and the link to the recording of Gary singing it.
Don’t cry little baby,
Someday you will see
How much Grandpa loves you,
What you mean to me.
Don’t cry little baby,
So perfect and good.
I promise to do for you
All that I should.
And there will be arms to hold you tight.
And soft lips to kiss you and whisper goodnight.
Grandpa loves you, dear baby,
Don’t cry little baby,
I’ll sing you my song
To bring you sweet dreams
That will last all night long.
Don’t cry little baby,
There’s no need to fear.
God’s most caring angels
Will always be near.
And there will be arms to hold you tight.
And soft lips to kiss you and whisper goodnight.
Grandpa loves you, dear baby,
After last chorus:
Sleep tight little baby,
You’re safe here with me.
[“My Faith In God Award” song is free to anyone. Scroll down to Free Products. The poetry poster “My Baptism” is available for a modest price. Also available on this site is the poetry poster “My Priesthood Promise”, which we give our grandsons when they are ordained to the priesthood. FREE SHIPPING on all products on the website. If you want the sheet music to “Grandpa’s Lullaby” email [email protected]]