Grow with your grandchild

Today’s guest blog is written by Kim Shippey, who has 11 grandchildren. He is a full-time writer and editor with the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly print and online publication. His post continues this week’s theme of a spiritual view of aging and vitality.

I’ll never forget a Saturday morning in the supermarket with our then three-year-old granddaughter Brittany sitting snugly in the basket of our shopping cart singing at the top of her voice, “Sun, Sun, Mister Golden Sun, please shine down on me!”

As we sped around a corner we encountered a seasoned shopper with a twinkle in his eye who grinned broadly as we narrowly missed crashing into his cart. “Excuse me,” he said pointing to Brittany, “could you tell me in which aisle I’d find one of those?”

I always say that the best thing about grandparenting is that when you’ve exhausted yourself having fun with the kids, you can hand them back to their parents, reclaim your laptop or iPad, and head for your armchair.

But I also insist that you should never underestimate the contribution you can make to their perspectives on life through the example you set during every visit–your values; the love they feel from you, which they go on to share with others; your strength; your compassion; and the spiritual dimension you bring to to the way you lead your life.

As that well-loved and best-selling author (and new grandmother!), Anne Lamott, says in her latest book, Some Assembly Required (Riverhead Books, 2012), “A grandchild is like a fine jewel set in an old ring.”

Anne’s language is a bit salty for many readers, but there’s no mistaking her honesty and utter dependence on God for wisdom in everything she tackles. In her new role as grandmother, she also turns to her friends for perspective, comfort, and a listening ear, and laces blunt (sometimes unsettling) experiences through the pages she shares as narrator with her proud 20-year-old son, Sam. They underline the strength that’s found in community–among friends, family, or faith.

Anne didn’t seem to notice the applesauce and drops of milk on the sweater she wore when I heard her speak in Boston recently alongside Sam, with grandson, Jax, in the audience. I thought the grin would never leave Anne’s face as she explained: “Grandchildren grow you. With your own child, you’re fixated on the foreground, trying to keep the child safe and alive. But with a grandchild, you can be in softer focus, you can see beyond the anxious foreground.”

Recent surveys in the United States, confirm that active grandparents reinforce their own youthfulness and purposeful activity, which is a blessing when you realize that among the estimated 56 million grandparents in the US in 2009, 2.5 million were the sole caregivers in their grandchildren’s life.

How essential it is, then, to pray daily for wisdom and inspiration in our parenting and grandparenting. The Bible puts it well: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5, New International Version). And Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, focuses on the “one Father with His universal family, held in the gospel of Love” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 577).

I think I’m getting the message. In grandparenting, there are three key steps: No judgment of child or parent; ready acceptance (even when coke lands on a white carpet) . . . and more love than you’ve ever given before!

For further reading:

Grandparents are caregivers for their grandchildren more now than ever before

Grandparent fills vital role in the shaping of a child’s life and healthy mental development


  1. Kim Shippey says

    Thanks, Grace, I especially love your phrase “the truth of youth on both sides.” Spot on, as we would say in my home country. k.s.

  2. Grace H. Carter says

    Thank you, Kim. There are great swirls of divine Love unseen under your writing here, coming to the surface in human affections.
    The trick is, I find in both parenting and grand-parenting, to value this play between generations, this innocent amusement and fun, enough to make it more engaging, attractive and entertaining than some TV shows and computer games.
    This requires the truth of youth on both sides I’m sure you would agree.

  3. Aleta says

    Another wonderful effect of being grandparents: the indescribable expression of appreciation that grown children show when they see their own children eagerly respond to their grandparents’ love. Thanks, Kim, for this strengthening blog.

  4. Virginia McCullough says

    Yes, it is essential to pray for wisdom and inspiration. Thank you for bringing that out today. I appreciate this blog and Jean’s comment.

  5. Jean Burgdorff says

    I would add to “more love than you’ve ever given before” “more love than you’ve ever GOTTEN before” I recently sent a package of food to a grandson who lives on his own in California, and received this heartwarming message: “Grandma: happiness visited my house last night!”