The Heart of Grandparenting
About the Guest
- The Family Manifesto provides a scripture-based blueprint for building a godly home. (20 min. read) https://www.familylife.com/aboutus/the-family-manifesto/
- Grandmothers Mary Larmoyeux and Nancy Downing offer some fun and easy ideas for making memories with your grandchildren. (25 min. podcast) https://www.familylife.com/podcast/familylife-today/connecting-as-grandparents/
- Mary Larmoyeux and Nancy Downing have collaborated to help you be intentional in this special relationship. (25 min. podcast) https://www.familylife.com/podcast/familylife-today/grandparent-connection/
- Equipping Grandparents. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/equipping-grandparents/
- Granny Camp. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/granny-camp/
- Check out all that's available on the FamilyLife Podcast Network. https://www.familylife.com/familylife-podcast-network/
Anne DierksAnne Dierks is the mother of four children and the grandmother of fourteen grandchildren--four boys and ten girls. After hosting her own grandchildren for a week each summer for over a decade, she has become an expert as the "Camp Director" in a unique experience she calls "Granny Camp." She has had no formal training as a teacher, nurse, art instructor, song director, coach, or cook. What she does have is a heart's desire to find a way to know her grandchildren through good clean fun and...more
Josh MulvihillJosh Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation, where he equips parents and grandparents to disciple their family and coaches church leaders to help them design Bible-based, Christ-centered family ministries. Josh has served as a pastor for nearly 20 years, is a founding member of the Legacy Coalition, and has a PhD from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Biblical Grandparenting, Preparing Children for Marriage...more
Mary LarmoyeuxMary May Larmoyeux (www.legacyconnection.org) and her husband, Jim, live near Little Rock, Arkansas. They have two children and eight grandchildren. A former writer for FamilyLife, Mary has written numerous articles and several books. She is the co-author of The Grandparent Connection: 365 Ways to Connect With Your Grandchild’s Heart and the author of ...more
Nancy DowningNancy Downing has been named a USA Today Teacher of the Year. She is a special education teacher and the former Center Director of LearningRx in Little Rock, Arkansas. She has received local, state, and national recognition for her development of Downfeld Phonics, a multi-sensory reading program. She has three grown children and one grandchild.
Does God have instructions for grandparents? Mary Larmoyeux, Nancy Downing, Josh Mulvihill and Anne Dierks share scriptural examples, and practical tips for being godly, intentional grandparents.
The Heart of Grandparenting
Michelle: We often say that grandparents do a lot, but what’s really at the core of grandparenting? Here’s Anne Dierks.
Anne: I think our main job is to pass on love; but it’s also to pass on your traditions that you’ve grown up with that are special—your faith, your love of family, your work ethic, the things that are important to you.
Michelle: Today, we’re going to explore the art of grandparenting and the big job God wants grandparents to do. Stay tuned.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, certain smells bring us back in time. The smell of Jergen’s lotion takes me back to Grandma’s house. You can probably hear the smile in my voice, because I was so blessed to grow up less than an hour away from both my dad’s and my mom’s parents.
Each summer, my brothers and I took turns spending a week with each set of grandparents. I just loved my one-on-one time with Grandma and Grampa. Grampa would always make sure that I had my favorite foods; and Grandma—she taught me how to embroider and crochet, just like her. I still use Jergen’s lotion, so that I can remember those sweet times with my grandma.
Grandparents have a special place in their grandchildren’s lives. Let’s take a drive down memory lane with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine, sharing their memories of their grandparents. Here’s Dennis remembering the sweet treat that he made with his grandpa.
[Previous FamilyLife Today® Broadcast]
Dennis: I remember making homemade ice cream on some concrete steps in a little shack that was representative of a family that was dirt poor, where O.T. and Bertha Ray lived. They’d been married for over 50 years, and I was back there with a hand crank.
Bob: I was going to say—it had to be hand-cranked; yes.
Dennis: Hand-crank, a tow sack over the top. We made ice cream, and we made friends. Grandpa did it; I did it; my uncles did it; and it was just a sweet, sweet memory.
Bob: My grandparents—Grandma and Grandpa Cross—used to come every year for Christmas to our house. They would drive from Flint, Michigan, to St. Louis for Christmas. They would bring a trunk full of Verner’s Ginger Ale, which we couldn’t get in St. Louis; they were crossing state lines with Verner’s Ginger Ale.
Then sometime, when Grandma was there, she would spend the night with me, sleeping in bed with me. I just remember—I didn’t realize until I got to be older that that was a sacrifice for her! [Laughter] You know, I thought she thought that would be as much fun as me!—yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: Squirmy grandkids!
What about you, Nancy?—your favorite memory?
Nancy: Both of my sets of grandparents lived out of state. One that I remember about my Grandmother Mack was—they lived in Wisconsin—was that she would make, at Christmas time, all sorts of Christmas cookies and decorate them up just unbelievably. Then she would get a coat box; and she would send all of those awesome decorated cookies to us. Then, in my family, there were all girls/there were four girls—she would also send us a doll and all of the doll clothes that she had made for them.
Nancy: So that was always awesome.
My other grandparents—they were a lot older. I just always remember my grandfather—I just remember him being so much shorter than my grandmother. After dinner, we would always walk around the block. It was just so sweet and tender how he would just walk with me around the block, and we would just look at everything that God had created. That’s what made it so neat—we would just talk about whatever he wanted to talk about or whatever I wanted to talk about.
I would always go there for two weeks in the summer to visit them. To this day, I still think about that. I remember one time even going to visit in the town where he was/just where they used to live, so I could ride around in the car in that block.
Dennis: —to kind of retrace the steps.
Nancy: Yes! It was just such a warm feeling.
Dennis: So Mary, what about you? What’s your favorite memory?
Mary: Well, I actually remember my grandmother, Nana; we spent a lot of time with her. One of my favorite things was making houses out of cardboard. She’d give us big Sears® catalogs, and we’d pull them out and cut out furniture. We’d make doll houses, and dolls, and everything. I just remember that being a whole lot of fun.
And she was always there; it seemed like Nana was always available. I spent a lot of time with Nana and had a wonderful relationship with her.
Michelle: Oh, listening to those sweet ladies almost makes me think of the sweet Southern grandmother—you know, she’s part Ann Landers: she gives all that great advice and wisdom; part Flannery O’Connor, and tells those wonderful stories; and, oh wait!—we have to throw in someone who’s going to cook for us, too; right? Because that’s what grandmas do—they make the best food!
By the way, the voices that you heard were Mary Larmoyeux, who is an author, and also Nancy Downing, who is a special education teacher. In a little bit, we’re going to hear more from them; they’re actually going to give some practical advice on how to be the best grandparent you possibly can be.
But before that, I want to answer the question: “What does it mean to be a grandparent?” You might not realize this, but God gave instructions in the Bible—even for grandparents—yes, He did. Josh Mulvihill is a founding member of the Legacy Coalition; it’s a ministry that equips grandparents to pass their faith to future generations. You can bet that he has spent some time studying the Bible on what it means. According to Josh—well, and according to the Bible; so according to God—grandparents have a pretty big job. It really boils down to one word—here he is.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Josh: I wanted to get down to one word from the Bible that you could define the role of a grandparent—because I think we can do that with a husband, a wife, and a child in Scripture—but what is that one word? That was part of my PhD dissertation—was to find that one word. I spent a year studying Scripture, cover to cover/hundreds of pages of text—you know, writing down everything I found.
Bob: Okay! Okay!
Josh: Are you ready for the word?
Bob: We’re waiting.
Dennis: We need a little drumroll here. [Drumroll sound]
Dennis: Here we go!
Josh: Yes, the word is “heritage.” We use the word, “legacy”; but this is a word seen in Proverbs 13:22: “A good man passes on an inheritance to his children’s children.” I think that has many applications: financial would be looked at, obviously; but I think spiritual is in there; a good name/a good reputation is part of that.
Josh: We see [Psalm 127:3]: “Children are a heritage from the Lord,” and I think that applies to grandchildren as well. In our Psalm 78 passage that we have, toward the end of that passage, it says, “God turned His wrath on His heritage.” There’s a piece of heritage-building, then, that’s part of the goal. It’s not a grandparent that’s building their own heritage; it’s the Lord’s heritage.
Bob: So I think—and correct me, here, if I’m wrong—but I’ve always seen this as what we leave is a legacy; what is received is a heritage. It’s really just the same thing; if you’re giving it, it’s a legacy; if you’re receiving it, it’s a heritage. It’s just the perspective from which it’s passed on.
Josh: Yes; we don’t see that word, “legacy,” in Scripture; so that idea of heritage is really what we’re leaving our grandkids. That’s a great question for grandparents to ask themselves: “When you’re no longer there, what is it that your grandkids will have from you?” Of course we want that, first and foremost, to be a strong faith in Jesus Christ that is passed down many generations.
Bob: Well, I’m thinking of Joshua, Chapter 4. That’s the chapter where, after crossing through the Jordan River, God tells the heads of the twelve tribes/the priests to go get the memorial stones and set those up. We may not have physical stones that we can point to; but when you talk about sharing from your walk with Jesus, you’re talking about the memorial stones of your life; aren’t you?
Josh: Grandparents are storytellers. They have an important place, in God’s story, to pass on the message of Christ. They do that as they focus on their own place in God’s story—centered in God and who He is—and what God has done in their life.
Dennis: We’re talking with Josh Mulvihill about grandparenting. I mentioned that you shared earlier there are two ways grandparents can, spiritually, pass on their faith to their grandkids. One is by stories—that’s telling. You also said there’s another way we do this—by teaching. Explain and unpack that, and give us an illustration of what that looks like, too.
Josh: Deuteronomy 4:9 gives a very explicit command to grandparents—it’s to teach coming generations: their children and their children’s children. Not only are we to teach our kids, but our grandkids as well. Many parents, I think, get to the point where they say, “I’ve done my job, and now that’s my adult children’s job to pass faith on to their children.” But what we see in Scripture is that grandparents are given a very specific role. It’s a verbal role, very often; but they are expected, by God, to open their mouth—open God’s Word and teach.
My encouragement to you, as a grandparent, is: “This doesn’t need to be anything extensive. It can be simply a single verse or a short passage that’s read; it takes a couple minutes—a few questions to discuss it.” Whether you have five days a year with your grandkids or they’re over at your house and you’re babysitting them every single week, that can become part of the process that they do with you, as a grandparent, at some point during each day.
They know, “When I’m with Grandma and Grandpa, we’re going to be reading God’s Word.” A commitment to that, over a long period of time, makes a big impact on a grandchild. They’ll remember: “My grandparent treasured God’s Word. It was important enough that they opened it up and made it a priority in our home.” Therefore, as grandparents, we need to step into that role that God expects of us.
Michelle: And that’s a very young-sounding Josh Mulvihill. Did you catch what Josh said? He said that God’s Word commands us to pass His truths down to the younger generation. That’s the grandparents’ role; that’s the grandparents’ job. Once you raise your kids and they’re out the door, you still have work to do.
Now, you may be familiar with our Family Manifesto; it’s FamilyLife®’s philosophical statement about marriage and family. Well, there’s also a statement about grandparents in there; and you can see that on our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Sure, grandparents—Grandma, Papa, Mimi, Pappy, Nana, Pops—whatever your grandkids call you, you are more than an ice cream cone on a summer day. You are a source of truth to the little ones who are running around your knees.
We have to take a break; but I want you to stick around, because I leaned into some grandmas on some really practical tips on how to be the best grandparent ever. Stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We’re talking about grandparents today, and grandparents are very special people. Somehow, we think that they got to where they are today just by being seasoned veterans and knowing how to do this grandparent thing well; but we all have the first days; right? You had your first day of kindergarten; you had your first day on your job; you had the first day of marriage. I don’t know about you—but on my first day of my first of anything, I kind of want to know what to do.
So, if you’re a new grandparent, you might be thinking the same thing: “What’s the first thing I need to do?” We’ve compiled sort of a “Top Ten” list thing, and Bob Lepine sat down with Mary Larmoyeux and Nancy Downing. You may remember those names from a little bit earlier on in the show. Mary is a writer and an author, and Nancy is a teacher. They're both grandparents, who love their grandchildren and want to see their grandchildren thrive. Here they are with a sampling of that list.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Bob: Alright, time for idea number eight on the countdown. Mary, this is yours.
Mary: Well, one of our ideas is something, probably, a lot of our listeners have done—and just mark how tall your grandchild is on the door.
Mary: We did that with our kids, and we have a door started for our grandkids. If you have grandkids who live out of town, you can still do it with them. Ask their mom or dad, “How tall are they?” Ask them to send that to you, and you mark it on the door. You can show them on Skype—that’s how I do it—show them how tall they are and how it’s marked on the door. They like that a whole lot.
You can also buy special measuring tapes and things and mail that to them, long distance, just so they’re in the process of this special thing that they’re doing with their grandparents.
Bob: Alright, we’ve got to keep the “Top Ten” list moving. It’s time for—
Dennis: It’s now at the “Top Thirteen,” Bob.
Bob: Number Seven! Here we go; and that’s you, Nancy.
Nancy: One thing that I think is awesome is furniture that’s been passed down from generation to generation. I have a rocking chair that my grandmother rocked my mother in; and then she passed that to my mom, and my mom rocked all four of us; then my mom passed it to me, and I rocked all three of my children; now, my daughter is rocking her child.
Alright; Number Six.
Mary: Well, I’d say magazine subscriptions. You can order a magazine subscription for your grandchild, and order the same one for you. If they live out of town, you can be reading the same articles; you can be asking them questions about it; you can show pictures on Skype together. You can read it to the little ones, while they’re looking at their magazine; you have the same one. That’s something fun that we’ve done.
Bob: I know World Magazine has a magazine for children—God’s World Magazine.
Bob: That could be the kind of thing you use.
Mary: Yes, it does; and also, Focus on the Family has Clubhouse and Clubhouse, Jr.
Bob: That’s right.
Mary: Those are excellent. We get the Creation magazine, and it’s Christian.
Mary: This isn’t a Christian magazine—but Ranger Rick.
Bob: Ranger Rick!!
Mary: They love Ranger Rick.
Bob: We loved our Ranger Rick when our kids were little, too.
Dennis: Alright; what’s Number—
Bob: —Number five; we’re down to five!
Dennis: —Number five?!
Nancy: I say, “Go buy a gift and then have it wrapped up”; if your grandchild lives out of town, then you can send them a picture of it. They get to guess clues about what they think it is. You’re going to have the gift for the month, and so they get a couple of clues during each week. At the end of the month—
Dennis: Give me an idea of what a clue might be.
Nancy: “The object that is in here is bigger than a phone,” or “The object in here is bigger than a blender,” so that they would get the size, because you could have a great big box and have a smaller thing inside.
Dennis: Alright; what are we down to?—Number Two?
Bob: We’re down to Number Two. Here is, in our “Top Ten” ideas for grandparents, this is Number Two. Mary—
Mary: Dennis made me think of a conference that my husband and I went to a few years ago. One of the survivors of the Holocaust was being interviewed, and she told her story; it was real moving. Jim and I made a point to get our picture taken with her, because we want that for our grandchildren. We want to be able to tell them about her, which we have. Someday, when we die, we want our great grandkids to see this, and see her story, and know that some relatives of theirs actually stood by someone who lived that.
Michelle: That’s Mary Larmoyeux and also Nancy Downing, sharing tips on how to be a great grandma. We have that full interview that includes the “Top Ten” list on our website; go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Maybe it’s not a Holocaust survivor that you take a picture with—maybe it’s a survivor of 9/11, or maybe somebody who lived through Hurricane Katrina—whatever it is—grandparents, you want to pass down history; and you want to pass down those memories of what you lived through. You know, help your grandkids get in touch with things that are bigger than themselves. Help them to understand that there are actually real events and real things that are happening out here in the real world.
You might have noticed that, with Mary and Nancy’s “Top Ten” list, they were being intentional. I know of another lady, who has spent time thinking through how she was going to be intentional with her grandkids; her name is Anne Dierks. She created something she calls “Granny Camp,” in order to build memories with her 14 grandchildren. She wanted to spend quality time with them and to make lasting memories. It’s a whole lot more than being considered “cool” by your grandkids. Here’s Anne.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Anne: We had nine granddaughters born in five years. When I started having the first of those nine little girls, seven of them came. They were ages seven to four-and-a-half. None of them had ever been to Granny Camp—had no idea what Granny Camp was. They just knew they were going to grandmother and granddad’s house.
My daughter, who has twin daughters, turned to one of her twins and said, “What do you want to do at Granny Camp?” Well, they had no idea!
Anne: She looked at her mother and she said, “I want to make someone that’s sad happy.” When she called and told me this, and I wiped the tears from my eyes, I put the phone down and I called—we live in a retirement community, where they have a nursing home unit. I called them and I said, “I have these seven little girls, who are all extroverts, like their grandmother. I’m sure they would like to come and do a show at your nursing home; would you like that?”
Dennis: A show!
Anne: A show. And they didn’t know they were going to do a show; I just decided they were going to do a show! [Laughter]
Dennis: You didn’t even have a show!
Anne: We didn’t have a show! But I said, “Can we come?” And they said, “Yes, we’d love it.”
Every year, we dress in our red, white, and blue; and we go to the nursing home, and we do a show in all these places. The night before, they make cookies for the residents. We get to do that for the assisted living people.
Dennis: Great idea!
Anne: It is just a wonderful thing that we do every year.
I think our main job is to pass on love from us to the children. I mean, that’s the main thing Granny Camp is about: it’s about love; but it’s also to pass on your traditions that you’ve grown up with that are special to you: your faith; your love of family; your dedication to work; your work ethic; the things that are important to you.
This is a way to do it, especially when you live thousands of miles away from each other; but it’s a time—and you know, it’s kind of, I guess, the last job that God’s given us to do; and we have to do it well.
Dennis: I really like where you went when you started: love—the whole concept of a relationship; it’s the Great Commandment—
Anne: It is.
Dennis: —“Love God and love others as you love yourself.”
Anne: Oh, absolutely! I mean, it’s in here: pass on your spiritual values; pray with them; be a good communicator; and listen to what they have to say, because these children are in a world of technology and in a world; in fact, one of my rules is: “You don’t bring your Nintendos, and you don’t bring any of those things to Granny Camp.”
Dennis: So no cell phones by grandkids at Granny Camp?
Anne: No, no. They did about two years ago, and they weren’t communicating with each other. I said, “Put that little machine, whatever it’s called, over there on the table. You can see it! I’m not stealing it; I’m not taking it away. It’s visible, but you are not to touch it. You just leave it there for this week, and we’re going to talk to each other. We’re going to interact with each other and not with this computer or whatever.”
Bob: Can they check their Facebook® before bed or something?—I mean—
Anne: No, no.
Bob: —they’re cut off from the world?!
Now, I do say in here that we, as grandparents, need to understand that technology so that we can talk their language.
Anne: We need to know what a DS is and an [MP3]—and all of those that I don’t have any idea what they are! [Laughter]
Bob: I’m thinking that the relative value of giving up your connection to the outside world in exchange for ice cream for dinner—that might be worth it! I might go for that. [Laughter]
Anne: Well, I think that we need to talk to them. I think we need to, not only be good listeners, but we need to talk to them about some of the trends that are out there today—the good ones and the bad ones.
Bob: Yes; you get a chance, really, to put your fingerprints—
Bob: —on the hearts of your grandchildren; don’t you?
Anne: Absolutely; because we’re the ones—we have the time. Grandparents have more time than their parents do. I look at my children and how pressured they are with all the things of daily living and getting their children here and there; and you know, getting food on the table. We were there!—we remember! We didn’t have the time to sit and listen and talk and do—which is terrible, but we didn’t. Life was moving, but life moves even faster today for our children.
So we, as grandparents, have the time to take and talk to our [grandchildren]—to listen to what their needs are. The choices that they’re getting ready to make in their life are so important: who their friends are, where they go, what books they read, what they do—all those things! We need to let them know that they have to be careful in all those choices.
Anne: God gave us the right to choose, but we have to choose what’s good and what is right. This is something that grandparents can spend time talking about, whereas parents just have to keep on keeping on. [Laughter]
Michelle: That’s Anne Dierks sharing about why she created Granny Camp. Something she said resonated with me: no texting; no Facebook during Granny Camp. I visited someone’s house a little while ago, and they had a basket in their foyer—it was for cell phones. You took your cell phone out of your pocket or out of your purse, and you put it in there; it stayed in there the whole time that you were in their house. Our conversation, over dinner, was enlightening and fun. We were not distracted with any rings, or cell phone tones, or anything like that.
Grandparents, you have every right to do this with your grandkids. You don’t have to be a dictator about it, but you have the right to take their phone away or ask them to put it on airplane mode, so they can focus in on you and your conversation with them. It’s all about being intentional.
Hey! Next week, we are going to talk with Lauren Chandler. She’s the worship leader at The Village Church in Texas; and her husband happens to be the pastor there, Matt Chandler. We’re going to talk about giving up self. I don’t know about you, but that is just such a hard thing for me to do. Sometimes—well, in order to give up self, we need a little encouragement; don’t we? Lauren is going to be here, and she’s going to help us with that.
I want to thank you for listening and, also, thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch, who gives up self every day to work with me; also, our producers, Marques Holt/Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator. The whole team does give up self to work with me, for which I’m very thankful.
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