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My son calls him “Big Grandpa.”
It’s an affectionate nickname that sprung out of his youthful misunderstanding of the concept of great-grandparents. Great-grandma tried to correct it at first, but “big grandpa and grandma” was planted steadfastly in his mind, so it stuck and she has warmed to her new moniker nicely.
I was blessed to know a few of my great-grandparents when I was young. One of my fondest childhood memories is getting to take naps with my Great-Grandpa Wilkins, and giggling together when he would set his hearing aid in between us on the bed and make it squawk loudly until my mom had to come confiscate it. He was also handy with a cane and never missed an opportunity to playfully prod the ribs of any kids standing too close.
My Great-Grandma Wilkins liked playing dominoes and I loved when she would play with my mom and me some afternoons, especially since it often meant that I would get to share some of her Diet Coke during the games.
Being so young, I didn’t fully realize the significance of my time with them, but I did appreciate it, even when my ribs were a little sore from the tickling. Now that I am older, I appreciate it even more and can see just how valuable those moments were as I cherish the memories I have.
I have been so blessed by my relationship with my great-grandparents, even though it was brief and I was young. I know that my connection and relationship with them helped shape a part of who I am today, both as a man and as a dad. I feel even more blessed that my son and daughter are now getting the chance to be in relationship with their own great-grandparents, and that they will benefit from the wisdom and love of their great-grandparents in the same positive ways I have.
What strikes me was the wonderful simplicity of my time with them. My grandparents and great-grandparents have passed along a lot of wisdom to me, both directly and through my parents.
But what has stuck with me in the most powerful way is the time they gave to me and their other grandkids and great-grandkids. Whether it was through a game of dominoes or a ride in the cab of a dusty pickup truck, they invested their love in us by spending time with us, with me.
It’s even more striking now that I am a dad and have realized how intentional the investment of time needs to be. Investing our time requires effort, whether we realize it or not. Investing our time in the right things takes even more effort. It isn’t as natural as I used to assume it was.
This has helped me appreciate my time with my grandparents and great-grandparents even more, and has challenged me to make sure that I honor their investment of time by doing the same with my own family.
Drs. Tom and Beverly Rodgers were on the Focus Daily Broadcast not long ago and on the show Beverly referred to a familiar old adage that says, “Rules without relationship equals rebellion,” and it got me thinking on how this idea might have played into my own intergenerational family relationships.
None of my grandparents were perfect. None of them were born with a full, natural grasp of parenting. It was something learned. The time they invested in me was the result of a lifetime of learning on their part. It’s something that we have to be intentional about learning and then actually doing.
If we want to bless our kids, and guide them towards life and life abundantly, then we need to recognize that time is one of our greatest tools for doing so. Investing our time in love allows us the opportunity to sow wisdom and will open up channels to invest discipline more effectively.
Jake Roberson (@jake_roberson) is a contributor for Dad Matters and a specialist in our Family Help Center at Focus on the Family.
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--Thank you for bringing up an important topic. It seems our culture often segregates by age. In schools we have our identity linked up in our Grade. In our churches we segregate by age as well. When we do this we lose the unique perspective brought by each generation. Children bring humor and joy to parents (as well as fatigue). Youth are emulated by younger children and bring new ideas and perspective to older adults. Middle Adults bring stability, and some wisdom, to to children and youth. They bring satisfaction to the elderly. The elderly bring a lifetime of perspective and wisdom to the other generations. Of course we are all flawed, but the system of growing up together really is a good design idea! God is so smart!