Articles by Linda and Richard Eyre, Comments and Questions by YOU
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of Meridian Articles to and about grandparents. One article will run each Tuesday for at least the next several weeks. Richard and Linda, who spend more and more of their time these days writing and speaking to Grandparents, would appreciate your feedback on each of these articles.
Getting Better at this Role by Talking about it and Thinking about it.
Here’s the thing: Grandparents don’t talk very much about grandparenting. It’s kind of like 50 years ago when parents didn’t talk very much about parenting. Since then there has been an explosion of writing and talking and listening among parents, and parents in general have become better and more mindful as a result.
We want the same thing to happen with Grandparenting, and we want it to happen right here on Meridian. So, each week, on Tuesday, we will not only write an article with some ideas in it, we will also ask a couple of questions to prompt more comments and questions coming in and circulating with each article. Please participate! Just hit “comment” and send your thoughts or questions or ideas. We will all be better off for it! So here are today’s two questions to you: 1. How would you define a Good Grandparent? In your our mind, what qualities or actions make one good at this role? 2. Personally, how important would you rank the grandparenting part of your life? And part two of this question: Where would you rank grandparenting as a joy-source in your life? How much happiness do you get from your grandchildren?
OK, now on to this week’s article, which is on individual, one-on-one grandparenting.
The Power of One-on-One with Generations One and Three
We find it a little surprising how many grandparents have spent virtually no time with their grandchildren one-on-one or in situations where the parents are not present. Kids are different in environments where parents are not with them. It brings out other aspects of their personalities, and you see them in a different light. We grandparents need to volunteer to babysit, occasionally, where it is just us and the kids, and find other ways to get to know them by themselves, without parents around. And we need to look for times when we can be with just one grandchild.
In the Church, we have a lot of groups and classes and quorums and wards, but we know the real Gospel is about the one. Ordinances are always individual. The most important lessons are learned within ourselves. Grandparenting is the same.
In fact, it’s a good idea to make it our conscious goal to get to know each grandchild one-on-one—to really know them and to keep updating what you know about them as they grow older. Get in the habit of going on individual “Grandpa Dates” or “Grandma Dates” with just one grandchild—a real one-on-one. Take that child to lunch—and let him or her pick the restaurant. Whether you have one grandchild or twenty, make this a regular habit. Take along an impressive-looking notebook or “grandkid datebook,” ask the child questions, and take notes on his or her answers. Tell them you want to know as much as you can about them, so you can always be their cheerleader and their helper. Ask them everything from their favorite color and food to what they think they might be when they grow up. Hand them the pen and let them fill in some things in your notebook like, “The three words that best describe me are . . .” or “The best thing and the worst thing in my life right now is . . .”
Don’t editorialize too much during these date discussions. Just ask a lot of questions and listen. And take notes.
Use the great word “really” to keep them talking. You can say “really” so many ways and in so many contexts. “Really!” as in “Wow!” “Really” as in “Whoa, I never knew that.” “Really?” as in “Are you serious?” “Really!?” as in “What the heck!” With the appropriate inflection, that one word can keep kids talking and connecting.
Have them make a list in your notebook of “things I am sure I will do in my life,” and “things I might do in my life,” and “things I will never do in my life.” You will find some humor as well as some serious answers. When I (Richard) asked that last question to my ten-year-old granddaughter on one of our dates, I was hoping for something like “I will never do drugs,” but she thought for a moment and said, “I will never ride a bike naked in public!” I said, “Really!?” and she said, “Yeah, because when we were in San Francisco, there was a parade and this guy rode by naked and I said to myself right then, ‘I will never do that!’”
Be Their Consultant
As your grandkids get into their mid- and late-teens, you want to transition into their consultants and their non- judgmental advisors, and perhaps their financial supporters for education and other worthwhile pursuits; and those earlier Grandfather Dates will have set the stage for that.
Tell them what a consultant is and tell them that your door or your computer or your phone is always open to them and that you will always welcome it and love it when they ask for help or for advice of any kind. Tell them you know their parents are always first, but you are the backup. And tell them you want to know everything you can about them, because the more you know, the more helpful you can be.
If you don’t live close enough to your grandkids to have regular Grandfather Dates, carve out some special, individual time when you are visiting their family or they are visiting you. And in the “between times,” get on Skype or FaceTime with them one-on-one.
Of course, essential to communication with any grandkids, whether they live far away or just down the street, is your own competence and confidence with social media. Get up to speed on whatever “language” they are currently using whether it’s Instagram or Snapchat or WhatsApp or Marco Polo or whatever, and when they change, you change, and use texts as the constant. And by the way, let them teach you to use these means of communication, and thank them for bringing you into the twenty first century!
And while you are going high-tech, go low-tech too by writing your grandchild something he or she may have never seen or received before: an actual stamped, sealed, handwritten letter. We write an “unbirthday” letter to each of our grandchildren on their half-birthday. We do it on real stationery with a fountain pen. It’s the only piece of snail mail they ever get!
Whatever methods you use, and in addition to any collective outings or get-togethers with your grandkids, remember that the real influencing of Grandparenting and the real forming of lasting personal relationships happens one-on-one!
Now, take a moment and hit the comment link below. Just comment or ask a question or send your answers to the questions asked in the first paragraphs of this article. Let’s think more and talk more about grandparenting and get better at it and have more fun with it as a result! See you here again next Tuesday.
Richard and Linda Eyre’s parenting and life-balance books have reached millions and been translated into a dozen languages. As fellow Baby Boomers, their passion and their writing focus has now shifted to the joy of Grandparenting. Linda’s latest book is Grandmothering, and Richard’s is Being a Proactive Grandfather, each of which is now on sale on Amazon or in Deseret Book. The Eyres have 31 grandchildren and counting, so they have an ample laboratory to test their grandparenting ideas. Their Mission Presidency in London also resulted in another 500 “children” so if you count the children of those missionaries, Richard and Linda may actually have thousands of grandchildren. At any rate, they want to share thoughts from you and hear thoughts back from you, so please comment on this and future articles.