How to Wear a Crown: Five Gifts Grandparents Can Offer Children

Proverbs 17:6 “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.”

Until I experienced it myself, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

Friends wearing beatific smiles assured me that no other human experience surpasses that of becoming a grandparent. But until little Owen, our first grandchild, was born and then again when his sister Julia entered the world, I was a skeptic. Afterward, I started blogging about the joy they have brought us.

grandparent bonding

Blissful bonding after Owen’s birth in 2011.

Fast forward to 2014. Granddad and I just spent six days taking care of three-year-old Owen and almost-two-year-old Julia while their parents celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in Dublin, Ireland. We drove to their house to take care of the children by ourselves.

We entered their world and offered them five gifts. Oh yes, we brought them a bag of presents each, which were fun to open at the beginning. But the five below will last a lot longer!

Time.

Because we have flexible work schedules, we can offer the gift of our time. We cleared most of our appointments for the week and traveled with little pressure. We followed Mommy and Daddy’s suggestions and then we made plans with the children.

Owen, age three, likes to participate in choosing how we use Time. He asks, “Is that a good plan?” after he makes a request. If it seems reasonable, we do it. If it isn’t possible or wise, we offer another. Seldom did we have a problem negotiating. What Owen and Julia are really learning is how to keep promises we make when we plan our time together.

Making and doing things.

Being a Grandparent

Granddad and Owen make a breakfast omelet.

Owen likes to help cook. We call him the “Sous Chef.” Julia likes to clean. She will wipe a cloth or napkin over any surface. Both of them concentrate completely on the tasks at hand. They are learning skills transferable to school and work. By doing things with them and complimenting their efforts, we give them the gift of having an impact and making a contribution. The gratification evident on their faces and reflected on ours, travels into their spirits and stays with them after we are gone.

Stories, poems, and rhymes.

Owen loves to ride his big bike with training wheels. One morning we went out early enough to see our own long shadows on the fence. I recited Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem to him, partly because another grandmother and blogger friend, Marian Beaman, had just written about the poems she remembered from childhood.

Little Shadow

“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Songs.

Owen and Julia like to sing “Peace Like a River,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and the Johnny Appleseed song. We sing before bedtime, but we also sing while we work and play. These songs sink deeply into memory. We hope they lay the soundtrack of their lives.

Attention.

We looked at everything, especially everything outdoors, with Owen and Julia. We saw droplets on leaves, seeds, leaves turning color, cracks in the sidewalk, mud, moss, spider webs, and so much more. Everything was exciting and beautiful. We put a grape in the sunshine because Uncle Nik told Owen it would turn into a raisin. And it did! We looked at every living thing as though it were a miracle. It was. It is!

dragonfly

Dragonfly miracle

These five gifts: time, making things, stories, songs, and attention, we left in Owen’s and Julia’s hearts.

And, of course, the gifts we give are the gifts we gave ourselves.

I can even claim the promise of Proverbs 16:31 “A gray head is a crown of glory!”

grandparenting

After I became a grandmother, I stopped dying my hair.

Proverbs 16:31
Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.

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Shirley Showalter (9 Posts)

Shirley Hershey Showalter grew up in a Mennonite farm family and went on to become the president of Goshen College and a foundation executive at The Fetzer Institute. She is now a writer, speaker, blogger, and consultant living in Harrisonburg, VA. She recently released her memoir, "Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World."


Comments

  1. What lucky grandchildren you have! I have lots of wonderful memories of my grandparents–lots of them revolving around food. Nobody can make a child feel special in the way that a grandparent can!

  2. Thanks, Diana. I’m trying to remember what you said about your grandparents in your Lancaster County childhood memoir called When the Roll is Called a Pyonder. Whatever it was, I’m sure it involved a tasty morsel of memory.

  3. Your grandchildren are blessed to have Stuart and you in their lives. I grew up without grandparents, all dead long before I was born, except for my mother’s mother. However, she was attached to another daughter’s three girls, and effectively left the rest of us out of her life. And you and Stuart are so blessed to be the grandparents of these two busy, interesting, and seemingly full of life children. Thank you for sharing these beautiful gifts and memories of your trip.

  4. Reading your words above brought tears to my eyes, Sherrey. To have a grandmother who doesn’t offer her gifts to you would be so hard! My own grandparents could not afford to spend the kind of time Stuart and I spend with Owen and Julia on each of their many grandchildren. I think size of family and place in birth order, not to mention personality and philosophy, make a great deal of difference. So happy to share the gifts and so impressed that you have found ways to claim the five gifts even without a lot of grandparent help. Blessings on your day!

  5. I clicked on your April post and noticed how cleverly you are tweaking your activities with the grandkids to fit their growing awareness. The shadow photo is stupendous.

    Obviously, they are learning to practice being in the moment along with making plans for future activities under your tutelage. To your Proverbs quote I will add Psalm 78:6a “That the generation to come might know . . . .”

    Thank you for your nod to my storybook chair post!

  6. Thanks, Marian. Those shadows were fun to play with, and since you had so recently reminded me of “I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,” I could read the words (from my iPhone) to Owen as we played. Thanks. I hope people who come here discover your great blog full of ways that document the generations pass along their wisdom, and foibles, to the next.

  7. Shirley, You’ve covered the most important gifts you bring to them beautifully. But I can see in your face the gifts they bring to you and Stuart. Grandchildren are wonderful.

    • Joan, you are absolutely right. They have brought us immeasurable gifts. Those were the first things I wrote about. This time I turned the tables. But that’s what love is — a stream that flows both ways. Thanks for expressing gratitude for another gift we share — grandparenthood.

  8. Children are a book waiting to be written, Shirley. You and Stuart are giving your grandchildren the gift of many happy memories to fill their pages.

  9. Shirley, you didn’t mention the most important gift of all: LOVE! Not surprising that you didn’t list it, because love is your given. It’s the water in your ocean, the air that you breathe, and surely that’s also true for your children and grandchildren, but it’s not to be taken for granted. If I thought about it, I knew my parents loved me, but I was AWARE of love when I was with my grandparents, especially my grandfathers.

    Maybe what it boils down to is that parents must be disciplinarians and especially a couple of generations ago many tended to focus more on what was wrong than what was right. My grandparents thought everything I did was remarkable.

    My grandmothers showed love through time and making things together. My grandfathers had wonderful hugs. Stories, music … none of that was part of the picture, but one grandfather took us fishing. The other took us to visit construction jobs — the most memorable was a nearly finished sewer plant already stocked with the requisite gnats. I knew by 1960 that insects were the key to an effective sewer ecosystem. They kept odors down. Maybe that’s a story he shared. The story of sewers.

    Love is the sum of your list, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

  10. Oh my goodness, Sharon! You are so right, both in the observation and in the reason for it. And love can be shared even at a sewage plant. Wow, talk about powerful. Yes!! Thank you so much for this profound addition to the post.

  11. You are blessed with grandchildren. They grow up so quickly. Faster than your own kids did , it seems. We are already working on our great grandchildren. We lost one great granddaughter before she turned 3 months. She had a lot of issues and was born with severe clift lip and palot. She died in her sleep. But God knows best about these things and we except his will in this matter.

  12. Oh, Shirley, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Losing any child would be so hard to bear. When I wrote my memoir about my own childhood, I realized that my little sister’s death, and my mother’s grief over it, have shaped me all my life. I am so glad she was able to keep on loving her living children even though the one who died broke her heart. I’m sure your faith expressed above gives you strength. Bless you and your family in your continuing grief.

  13. Shirley, thank you so much for your thoughtful essay on being with grandchildren. As you know, my husband and I were very fortunate to be the primary caretakers for our granddaughter Natalie during July and August when her regular caretaker was in her homeland, Ethiopia. Natalie turned two on July 14. She loved going to a nearby little ones’ park with my husband. Then they came back to our place and we would go together for lunch, usually at the same Panera Bread where we often ate outdoors at the same table which luckily was frequently available. As you also know, we returned to Kansas City, Missouri, in early September. Recently our son-in-law took Natalie to the same restaurant. As they were leaving, Natalie pointed to the chair where I often sat and said “Grandma’s chair.” When her mother told me that on the phone …. I still get a lump in my throat and misty eyes thinking about it.

  14. Barbara, you have been intensely present in your granddaughter’s life. Now, in your absence, she feels the invisible link. Even before her memory is fully established, she feels you with her. No wonder you get a lump in your throat! Thanks for sharing that sweet story.

  15. Oh Shirley this is awesome and timely. I have four adopted grands by oldest daughter and next month a baby boy is being born to my middle child. This time I get some notice. The five gifts are so important for children and grandchildren. Enjoy yours.

    • Marcia! I just now found this comment. Thanks for these words and congrats on your anticipated expansion in the role of grandparent. I know your arms are wide enough to stretch around all five grandchildren. Blessings, peace, joy!

  16. reneeliamrhys says:

    So lovely your five gifts. Time being the main head encompassing all your gifts. By making time we learn to extend to the others as by the time we are blessed grandparents we have learnt a lot about life.
    Many thanks for your article from a grandma and grandpa who love to share time with our precious grandchildren.

    Alexa from Sydney, Australia
    http://www.Alexa-asimplelife.com

  17. Alexa,

    Since you live in Sydney, you can share time with your grandchildren, we’ll do the same with ours, and we will be sharing time 24-7!

    Thanks so much for commenting. I love imagining grandparents and children enjoying each other all around the world. Such a peaceful thought, especially in places of war and suffering.

    Let us be grateful for our own and bless all other grandparents everywhere.

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