It’s cute how much my teens enjoy spending time with their grandparents. Kid2 likes to talk story, bake, help clean house, and play with their dogs. Recently, she chopped and stacked tree branches, and then ate and chatted up Grandma some more.
Like most Hawaii locals, we are blessed to see family often. I take it for granted, but I tell my kids that they are lucky because a lot of kids and grandparents on the mainland only see each other a few times a year, or less. My husband grew up without grandparents because his parents emigrated from China.
Grandparents are better
Grandparents offer a mellower kind of love and parenting. They have experience, perspective, time, and grandkids go home! They’re not the same people who raised us. They’re better.
I hope every kid gets to know his loving grandparents. Our parents are critical, demanding, tired, busy, and irritable. Grandparents offer a wholesome affection that blankets over a child’s imperfections and nurtures emotional growth, like mulch around a tree.
When we got ready to leave, my mom tried to pay Kid2 for her help. Without prompting, Kid2 said, “That’s alright, Grandma. I like to help.” Grandma continued to try to give her money, and she continued to refuse.
“That’s what grandkids are for!” was Kid2’s rebuttal before hugging Grandma and getting in the car. I was very proud of her. I would feel like a parenting failure for raising takers instead of contributors if my kids demanded payment for helping their grandparents. A scolding and a head slap, NCIS Gibbs style, would be in order, for both parent and child.
Miraculously, despite my curmudgeonly, critical parenting, the kids are turning out alright—valuing time, service, and love over money and things.
Money and things vs. time and attention
It would be easier to give kids material things instead of time and attention. Kids can be a pain! But what will they value if we trade love and parenting for stuff? Will they even recognize love later if they are used to receiving things?
Giving things is a language of love, according to Dr. Gary Chapman in The Five Love Languages: the Secret to Love That Lasts. But an object is breakable, replaceable. Time and attention are unique to us, and as such, are our greatest gifts.
“But that’s what grandparents are for!” My mom insisted. “To give kids money.”
“Hugs and kisses, and food, and fun stuff, Grandma,” Kid2 insisted.
A good daughter doesn’t upset her elderly mom, so I took the money. Besides, she said, “Here, you take it for gas money then.” Can’t turn down gas money!
Far from perfect, my daughter hardly does any chores at home and absolutely no yard work. But she is a good granddaughter, with a generous and loving heart.
Encourage children to write letters to their grandparents if they are unable to visit often. Even small children can draw a picture and dictate a message. The effort to jot down a few paragraphs about the baseball game, a best friend, or to complain about their parents is minimal compared to the recipients’ appreciation.
Nurture this precious relationship. People die, but their imprint on our lives is indelible. You can never get this time back and the opportunity to connect is limited.