My name is Almost Everyone, and I am 65 or older.
Here are my Four Fondest Wishes:
ONE: In terms of how I feel and how I think, I wish to stay as young as I can for as long as I can.
TWO: I wish to leave some kind of lasting legacy.
THREE: I wish to be Surrounded by Loved Ones as I live the final chapters of my life
FOUR: I wish for each of my Grandchildren a safe and successful life.
Let me elaborate a bit on all four of those wishes:
Since I am Almost Everyone, I can be candid and tell you that at this stage, I am starting to feel my age. Little things mostly, but I’m aware that I can’t do everything I once could, and realistically, my physical and mental peaks may have passed. I may be, as they say, a little bit “over the hill,” but it’s not always such a bad place to be—when you crest a hill, you can coast a little. My first wish is just that the downslope will be gradual, and long. Ageing is inevitable, but my wish is that I can control its pace—slow it down as much as possible. Because I still feel like I have a lot to do and a lot to enjoy.
Not to dwell on it, but I want to leave something behind when I go—some kind of legacy—something that makes the world a little better place, so that is the second wish.
I want to be independent and able to care for myself as long as possible, but my third wish is that I can avoid the loneliness that creeps up on so many as they move into the “senior” part of their lives. I feel that I can handle everything that comes better if those I care about and love most still care about and love me back.
My grandchildren, on the opposite end of their lives, will live in a world I can’t even imagine, and my fourth wish is not for me but for them—that they will have the strength and the values and the faith to find their own joy and reach their potential.
A note from the Eyres to themselves and to all of us
We have discovered a secret about these four wishes that we want to share (although many of you may have already found it). And then we want to make a suggestion about what to do with the secret.
Here is the secret:
THE BEST WAY TO WORK ON THE FIRST THREE WISHES IS TO WORK ON THE FOURTH ONE.
It is our grandkids, and our frequent contact with them and our individual relationships with them that will keep us young!
Whether we are outgoing or quiet, famous or common, rich or poor, our only real legacy will be our grandchildren!
And the older we get, the more it will be our grandkids that we want to have around us, either physically or virtually!
So, by focusing on the fourth wish, we will also create favorable results on wishes one, two, and three.
The problem is that knowing that secret doesn’t make it happen.
We have to make it happen. If we want to be proactive, difference-making grandparents who deliberately and consciously work on the fourth wish, knowing that it will bring about the first three wishes, we first have to figure out HOW?
Good Grandparenting is an art and a skill. It involves some very sensitive things, like not overstepping our bounds and not stepping on our kids’ toes; like learning to live in our grandkids world and communicate in their language; like knowing what they need at certain phases of their lives; and like loving unconditionally and without judgement.
Our own grandparents probably were not particularly proactive—it was rare in their generation. And our own parents were probably not deeply or personally involved with our kids—they loved them and did what they could, but grandparenting wasn’t really a thing then, there weren’t books or guides or online answers to consult or absorb.
And there still aren’t!
Grandparenting today is where parenting was 50 or 60 years ago—you just do it by instinct and by trial and error—you figure it out for yourself.
And that can be OK, but most of us don’t want to have to re-discover the wheel. If there are proven ideas and best practices, we want to know about them. If other grandparents have figured out things that work, we want to connect and get those ideas.
The Solution (or at least the beginning of one)
We have been surveying more than a thousand grandparents for several months, and here is what we have learned:
- Most of us (over 80%) would like to be more deliberate and proactive in our grandparenting.
- The things most of us rank as “very important” are: Building trusting, confidence-giving relationships with individual grandchildren; Being the “story-link” that connects your grandkids to your ancestors (branches to roots); Making sons- or daughters-in-law a true and real part of your family; Giving advice (and teaching values and faith) without offending adult children.
- Rather than some isolated articles or seminars on Grandparenting, most of us (75%) would like to take an actual on-line course that addresses our concerns and gives us specific ideas.
Based in the survey, here is an overview of the 6-month Grandparenting course we are building (Monthly Zoom Seminars supported by weekly send-outs with ideas, best-practices, and “homework.”)
Month/Module A: The Higher Perspective, Priority, and Paradigm of More Effective Grandparenting. The first step in becoming better grandparents is not about changing our grandkids, but about changing ourselves. Many of us will be grandparents for 40 years, and in Module A, we will examine our priorities, our roles, the new opportunities and relationship changes that come in the “autumn” of our lives, and the tricky business of being effective grandparents without stepping on the toes of our children the parents. We will discuss the individual hopes and goals we have for our grandkids and think about the three-generation culture we want to create for our families, and how to make that family culture stronger than the world cultures that swirl surround us. For “homework” we will explore and write personal Grandparenting Vision Statements and, if we have a spouse, delve into working effectively as a grandparenting team. Also in this first module, we will discuss long-distance grandparenting (when grandkids live far away) and finally, we will explode some old myths like “being over the hill” and “the empty nest” along with the importance of setting boundaries and finding balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of your family.
Month/Module B: Grandparenting Goals and Roles (by age). Being a good and effective grandparent of babies and toddlers is very different from being good with elementary age grandkids. And teens are something else again. We want to go from cheerleaders to champions to consultants. In this module, we will explore the keys to success with each age—from the JOY we want to feel and teach with the little ones, to the RESPONSIBILITY we hope to help the middle ones with, to the SENSATIVITY AND VALUES that adolescents and teens need most. And we will work on the FAITH that should overlay it all. Homework will include a “needs analysis” of each grandchild and holding a “five-facet review” of each grandchild with our children the parents. Also covered will be ideas for “rewards and rights-of passage” as grandkids reach certain ages. And we will spend some time on the separate and individual perspectives of grandmas vs. grandpas—how the two roles differ and how they can work in synergy.
Month/Module C: Deep Life Relationships with Individual Grandkids. No matter how many or how few grandchildren you have, the real difference-making work is not collective but one-on-one. In this module, we will get deep into creative ideas about how to get an individual grandkid to open up, how to build trust, how to know his or her real gifts, how to have real communication and memorable fun together, and how to make each one feel like they are your favorite. Homework will involve creating a “Grandchild ledger” where you take notes on what you know and what you learn about each one, and a questionnaire for kids to keep track of their loves and dreams, and another for our children the parents on what they want our help on, and how (along with the very delicate art of giving non-offending advice). Also this month we will talk about becoming literate in the electronic and social media language our grandkids speak, and communicating with them in the way they communicate. And we will deep-dive into relationships with our in-law children and even with our “co-grandparents” from that other side…mending any fences that need mending, and creating teamwork approaches to helping and raising those kids that we all love.
Month/Module D: Smart Support. When it comes to financial help, sometimes we give more by giving less. During this module we will explore the potential joys and pitfalls of assistance, inheritance, and money-help; and will tackle the difficult dangers of entitlement and initiative-robbing and contrast it with the power and motivation of matching, supplementing, and monitoring. Homework will involve creating your own Generation One and Three Financial Plan and creating an outline for a “Teamwork and what to expect” discussion with our children the parents. Understanding the vast difference in the financial means of course-members, we will explore ideas ranging from simple rewards and bonuses and a “family bank” to matching contributions in Custodial Roth IRAs. Together, we will answer the questions about how to instill responsibility and “grit.”
Month/Module E: Values and Faith. Whatever our own belief and values perspectives are, we want the best of them for our grandchildren. And we soon realize that values don’t just get passed on by osmosis—they have to be taught, and doing that effectively takes the right stories and ideas as well as the right example. During this module, all course members will receive a set of one-a-month universal values stories called Alexander’s Amazing Adventures which are absolutely brilliant for creating discussion as they are listened to together, making topics like Honesty, Respect, and Self-Reliance come alive and become approachable. You will use one of these audio stories each month over the course of the next year. Your homework this month will include creating a personal, ‘memorizable’ set of “Grandfather’s or Grandmother’s Secrets” which embody the key life-lessons you want to pass on to your grandchildren, and some ideas and best practices for teaching and “implanting” them. There will also be some discussion about prayer and meditation for individual grandchildren.
Month/Module F: Being the Link and the Trunk. New research shows that resilience in kids is linked directly to how much they know about their ancestors. You are the “trunk” between the limbs of your children and grandchildren and the roots of your parents and grandparents, and the more you connect the two, the more lasting your family will be and the more resilient your individual grandchildren will be. This month we will deliberately and specifically delve into the best ways to create the stories and the culture that will bond and ‘eternalize’ your family and create the new “favorite bedtime stories” of your grandkids. Homework will include creating an “Ancestor Book” of children’s stories and a graphic Family Tree where each grandchild has his or her own branch that flows through your children-parents to your trunk and down to each individual ancestor-root represented by a picture and a story. This month also includes a host of ideas for gatherings and reunions, and for building and strengthening bonds between cousins; and a structured opportunity to improve and re-create the Grandparenting Vision Statement that many of you did back in Module A.
What to do if you want to be involved
It’s simple. Just send a brief “I’m interested” email to [email protected] and you will receive further information and be invited to participate in the Grandparenting course.
As New York Times #1 Bestselling Authors, Linda and Richard have, since the pandemic, shifted their focus from parenting to grandparenting—believing that 3-generation families are the solutions to many of our family dysfunctions.