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National Editorials & Columns

Grandparenting literacy is a privilege we can enjoy with or without grandchildren nearby

Grandparents Day is this Sunday, Sept. 8, and it isn’t just a retail event. Grandparenting literacy is a privilege we can enjoy even if we never had children or if our grandchildren are far away.

In our whirlwind world parenting a literate child is challenging, fun, and exciting.  Grandparenting a literate child may be even more interesting and fun when you don’t have the constant responsibility of caring for the child. You have multiple opportunities to read books and read them again and again. You find you have more patience with your grandchildren to take them to museums, various exhibits, and play literate travel games, plus much more. 

Today, because of longer life spans, we have opportunities to work with great-grandchildren. My great-grandmother, whom I called “Aunt Ma,” lived to be an active 104 and she made many impacts on my life. Her role model alone of taking care of others at her age left permanent good memories.

Our 2-year-old grandchild spent two weeks with us once, giving us the chance to again see ourselves through the eyes of a young child.  She was much more verbal than our four children were at that age, so she could realistically be described as a question box.

She definitely made me think. Consider the way some picture books illustrate birds, ducks, and chickens. How could she tell the difference among them?  Also, I’ve never seen blue bears, or deer that look like slightly overlarge dogs.  How does a child make sense of the bunny rabbit on the page and the one that hops across our yard?  How does the picture-perfect puppy resemble the bouncy one that jumped up on her and knocked her down?

As I once again tried to explain the world in 2-year-old language, I found that though she listened no light came on in her eyes until finally she made a connection.  I had forgotten those wonderful “ah-ha” moments.

It was hard enough for her to make adjustments to the different rules of Grandma and Grandpa. Then we asked her to believe a purple Barney told her to touch her toes, then touch her nose, or to learn a different pat-a-cake version.

Also, we told her she couldn’t go swing because it was too muddy, but it wasn’t raining.  If rain makes mud, then isn’t it logical that when it stops raining there is no more mud?

Or what about this odd world of Grandma and Grandpa’s where you have to look on a piece of paper to see if “toons” are on.  Don’t you just stick a box into the television and have “toons”?  Children give you so many opportunities to appreciate the ordinary that you may not be able to move fast enough to keep up with them. 

Grandparents enjoy special opportunities to leave memory footprints on the hearts of their grandchildren. They can do this in simple ways such as:

• getting to know each as an individual and not just as an extension of your child or yourself;

• encouraging their endeavors;

• thinking and praying for them often;

• caring about what they do, not to advise, but to love;

• filling in the gaps that their busy parents can’t fill;

• being proud of them no matter what they do;

• knowing what skills, gifts, worries, concerns that they have and listening to their dreams;

• accepting them without trying to change them;

• talking to them about little things and big things;

• enjoying them whether in person, by phone, mail or email;

• sharing their troubles and supporting them in their decisions;

• hoping for them, not that they have more things, but that they have faith;

• giving them the gift of yourself as much as you can;

• admiring their strength and accepting their weaknesses;

• treasuring their spirit;

• sharing your past and your dreams and letting them share with you;

• helping them to create a song in their heart;

• and rejoicing in their successes and sorrowing in their failures and footprint opportunities are only limited by your imagination. 

Some footprint memories enable lifetime decisions. I’ve never smoked or been tempted because the very first time I found a cigarette and thought I’d try it, Grandma caught me. She gave no lecture. She sat down and said, “Please finish your cigarette.” She watched until it was all done and made sure I inhaled. She held my head as I threw up and groaned for a very long time.  Later, if someone tried to tempt me, I remembered cigarettes and that awful feeling.

Many people walk in and out of your life and if you have the treasure of grandchildren, hold them closely. Just remember how fast your children grew up, so take time to leave footprints on their hearts forever.

Until next week…  Christine Pauley

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