Grandparenting On Purpose
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Pastor Josh Mulvihill and his wife, Jen, remind grandparents that they can be a powerful force for good in their grandchildren’s lives, but only if they spend time with them.
Grandparenting On Purpose
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 6th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Influence matters for a lot; and if you’re a grandparent, you have more influence over your grandchildren than you may realize. We’ll talk about that more today with Josh and Jen Mulvihill. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Have you guys established a regular rhythm for what your interaction with your grandkids looks like?—either in phone calls, or e-mails, or texts, or visits. Do you have kind of a pattern set out, or is it just when you can?
Dave: Every single day.
Dave: No; I’m kidding; [Laughter] I’m kidding. No; we have one grandson near us—
Dave: —and we don’t go more than two days.
Ann: We see them a lot; they only live ten minutes from us. Our son will just FaceTime®—if he hasn’t seen us in a couple days—our son will FaceTime.
But the kids in Colorado—Dave and I aren’t real planners, and we need to be—and I’ve asked, “Can we get a day on the calendar that we are FaceTiming at a certain time?” That would help all of us; but none of us are real great planners, so it just hasn’t happened like that.
Dave: We’ve had a couple times—it’s so cute—is our grandson near us will literally wake up and go, “Nonie! Nonie!” and he wants grandma; so they FaceTime or they say, “You’ve got to get over here in the next couple of hours.”
Bob: I think what we’re talking about this week—the whole idea of being intentional about grandparenting—is something that we do have to get on our planners, and have to figure out what our rhythm is going to be, and then get into a regular sync of how we’re going to interact and when we’re going to interact; and make that a part of the program.
We’ve got friends joining us here this week to talk about this: Josh and Jen Mulvihill. Josh/Jen, welcome back.
Jen: Thank you.
Josh: Good to be here.
Bob: These guys are not yet grandparents and, yet, this is something that—in your study of Scripture and your interaction with families—you’ve recognized grandparenting is an untapped resource within the body of Christ and within the family structure, something that can be used for God’s glory in a powerful way.
What do you recommend to grandparents about developing the kind of intentional rhythm I was talking about?
Josh: A big one right now is just: “How much time do you spend with each of your grandchildren?”—it’s an easy impact. Limited time equals limited impact.
There’s been quite a few studies done on the amount of time that grandparents spend with their grandkids. Here’s the findings: “One out of two grandparents is considered a detached or a disengaged/passive grandparent.” One out of two: that means/that equates to connecting with your grandchild less than once a month [as a detached grandparent]. When you don’t have time with someone, obviously there’s a limited impact that can happen. One out of two is active: that means they are very engaged in their grandkids’ lives. That’s true for any of our listeners.
A simple thing is—you talk about being intentional—increase the frequency of impact. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a priority issue; or it’s just a planning issue. We’re all busy, and late gatherings and last-minute gatherings are hard—so let’s put them on the calendar, whatever that looks like—that time component is a big one. We want to get out of just the holiday grandparenting that a lot fall into: we see them on a couple of holidays in the year.
Recognizing those big days: the birthdays/the big milestones. The technology that exists today provides a lot of opportunity to interact, and many of us don’t use it to the degree that we could; or many grandparents are slow adopters of some technology. Our encouragement is to use that for the relationship building that happens.
Be willing to travel. Sometimes it’s easier to go to children—especially with young kids, that it’s sometimes harder to travel—or more expensive. We have five kids, so flying somewhere with seven of us is pretty prohibitive. It’s a blessing to have sometimes [them] coming to us.
There’s lots of things that can happen to build and develop those relationships. Other than Christ, obviously, that’s the cornerstone that makes discipleship possible. If the relationship doesn’t exist, then the heart openness and heart desire is not there to receive what is being offered.
Ann: I’m interested to know if your parents feel pressure since you’re the grandparent experts. [Laughter] What’s your relationship like with them? What does it look like for your kids and your parents?
Jen: Both of our moms passed away within the last few years. My mom passed away five years ago of cancer, and Josh’s mom passed away eight years ago of ALS. Both of our parents, as grandparents—prior to our moms passing away—were spot-on, A+, a 10 out of a 10 disciple-making grandparents.
When grandma dies, it changes that dynamic; but I would say that both of our dads have done an excellent job of continuing to pour into our kids; it just looks a little different. Josh’s dad has remarried; praise the Lord that God has given us a beautiful new grandma in Grammy Pammy as we call her. She is a gift to our family; she has stepped in: she loves the kids; she is an encourager; she cooks for the kids; and FaceTimes them; and is hands-on in a way that we love and appreciate. We consider her a blessing.
Especially Josh’s dad and Pam—they are very intentional to ask good questions. They have asked: “What would you like to see from us?” “In what ways can we encourage you?” “How often would you like us to see the grandkids?” “How can we help you more?” I think parenting looks different in this generation—it is hard to get dates on the calendar; it is time to schedule things—but their openness and availability has been wonderful.
Then also, we’ve been blessed by an adoptive grandmother, who has stepped into our family—a wonderful woman from our church—who has said, “I have grandchildren of my own, but they live at a distance; and I would love to pour into your family.” She’s hands-on with our children and spends time with them: takes them out and all those things. We have been blessed to have disciple-making grandparents in our own family that have affected us tremendously.
Dave: It sounds great that—you don’t often hear what you just said—a grandparent saying to their kids, “How do you want us to be involved?” rather than “I’m going to tell you how I’m going to be involved with your kids.”
Josh: My dad and Pam invited us to go out to lunch—
Josh:—and simply said, “Can you just tell us what you’re trying to accomplish as parents? What are your goals? What are you doing and how can we fit into that?” They just listened.
Dave: And you said, “Here, I’ve got a book for you to read.” [Laughter]
Josh: They actually wrote a chapter in—
Dave: Did they?
Jen: Yes, they did.
Josh: Yes; we’ve had the experience/we’ve experienced a couple sides—it’s been interesting. Jen’s parents—we lived two hours away from them.
Josh: They sold their home and moved within a mile of us so our kids/their grandkids were with them all the time—
Jen: —all the time.
Josh:—and it was wonderful! It built that relationship. They/there was a lot of intimacy, and death changed that. It left a hole, not only for our kids, but for us. We saw/we’ve experienced both sides—very hands-on and then the lack of.
I’ll just say this: “Grandparents, you matter.” Many times, I think grandparents undervalue the impact that they have and the place that they have in a grandchild’s life. You are important, both from the emotional support to the spiritual influence to everything that exists. If you’re wondering, “What do I have to offer?” you have yourself—your wisdom, your guidance, your presence—that is what God wants from you.
Dave: Before you become a parent, I’m guessing everyone did what we did: you’re inhaling anything you can about being a parent—
Dave: —reading books, watching videos.
When you’re about to become a grandparent, you don’t even think that way. I didn’t read one book; didn’t think about it. “Oh! Am I unique? I never/I mean, here it is!” Were there tools available?—I didn’t know that they were there.
Dave: It just sort of hits you, “I’m a grandparent” one day. You don’t/you don’t think of it as intentionally as you should.
Dave: You just said, “Grandparents really, really matter”; so we should take this job as seriously as we took our parenting job.
Ann: And what a loss for you guys—like to both lose your moms—I’m sorry for that; that’s so hard.
Jen: Yes; it has been a hard season, but I think God has taught us a lot in these seasons. I mean, even in the season of my mom’s death, my boys being so close to her—even in her final days, she could say to them: “I love you,” and “I’m going to meet Jesus; I’m going to meet Him.” When she died, I remember our oldest saying, “Today was her day that she met the real Jesus!” What a beautiful testimony of her life.
Ann: —even her not being afraid.
Jen: Not afraid—not afraid at all.
I just think, in this season, where culture says to us: “Grandparents, spoil your grandkids!—all the fun!—all the sugar!” Really, the greatest gift a grandparent can give—it’s just the gift of yourself: and the gift of your time, and the gift of your legacy; and pouring into them—it’s those day-to-day moments that matter/that’s what matters.
Ann: My mom just passed away at the beginning of 2020. My mom and dad have
12 grandsons—no granddaughters.
Jen: Oh wow; okay.
Ann: At her funeral, all 12 grandsons—Dave had them stand up and share something about her—and they all had stories. She was amazing; she was fun; she was intentional; she was the most giving person that I have ever been around—the biggest servant I’ve ever seen.
One of the grandsons said, “We were out with Grandma Toot”—her name was Toot—[Laughter]—Grandma Toot. “It was in Georgia, and it started to snow,”—so snow actually was starting to cover the ground, which was unusual in Georgia. My mom was in her 80s at that time, and the boys were trying to sled down this hill. She says, “You guys don’t even know what you’re doing”; and she runs into the garage. [Laughter] She comes out with this big piece of cardboard. She gets a running start, and she runs and belly flops on this piece of cardboard, and goes all the way down the hill. These two brothers looked at each other and said, “We have the most incredible grandmother in the entire world!”
There were countless stories of her doing that; but also just sitting there, being with them—
Ann: —reading to them. I think part of it is: “Just who has God made you to be?”—
Ann: —and to let that shine out of who you are, as in your identity. Your kids/your grandkids need that.
Ann: So when we talk about who we are, and even our purpose, as a grandparent—as you have already talked earlier—what are some of the other purposes for us as grandparents?
Josh: Psalm 92 talks about just this wonderful metaphor of a date palm tree—and how we are like that date palm—and how date palms bear fruit until old age. This is actually what Psalm 92 says—I just want to read it; it says: “The righteous will flourish like a date palm, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of the LORD. They will still bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there’s no wickedness in Him.”
Old age is the season of grandparenting. Like date palms, it’s the season of fruitfulness. Many think, “My fruit-bearing capacities become limited.” I think they become enhanced. As you get older—we’re in our 40s—as we’ve gotten older, life experience, wisdom, understanding God’s Word—all that grows. There’s a greater capacity to minister than a lesser capacity. You want 40-year-old Josh rather than 20-year-old Josh, I assume.
Grandparents have that fruit-bearing capacity that—don’t cash it in and stand on the sidelines. There’s a lot of untapped, unused potential, and valuable grandparents that aren’t being utilized—whether that’s in churches today, typically pushed to the sidelines, or whether in families—so that’s a third one.
Dave: Let me ask you this real quick—because it makes me think: “As a grandparent—the wisdom part—you know, lived a little longer—
Ann: —and you are wise.
Dave:—I am wise; [Laughter] I’m amazing; no.
But even as you watch your kids parent their kids/your grandkids, there’s things you see/you know that you did the same thing in your youth; but now, you’re like, “Oh, that’s not the way to do it.” What’s a grandparent to do at that moment?—do they step in?—do they step back?
I know you’re the parents that have grandparents doing that; but you know, coach the grandparents: “Do they just keep quiet or do they—like how they discipline their kids, or the rules they’re setting, or the freedom they’re giving—they have different opinions. Do they bring it up or do they let it go?”
Ann: That’s a good question!—
Josh: That’s a great question.
Ann: —every grandparent is asking.
Jen: That’s a great question; yes.
Josh: I think about the influence principle. If we take a commanding presence, that’s typically not received well; right? We want to influence rather than command. When we are in proximity/in relationship, that just tends to happen as we go through our days with people—that we may end up asking/being invited to speak into something, just because we’re in relationship with those individuals.
When that relationship’s not occurring on a regular basis—it’s not intimate—then there tends to be the stiff-arm, and the distance, and “That’s not happening.” So then, we—what do we do?—we push, and we push people away in that.
Josh: If the door’s not open, and we force our way through it, that’s probably not the best method to get the result we want. [Laughter]
Ann: Let’s get to some of the practical things—
Ann: —because this gets fun—of what we can do as grandparents. You guys have a lot of stories.
Josh: We do; yes.
Jen: I would say, if you’re looking for some practical ideas, just start by saying, “Yes,”/saying, “Yes,” to being intentional. Start by saying, “Yes,” to changing your schedule, and re-evaluating how you spend your time, and who you’re spending your time with. Grandparents are busy, but sometimes we’re busy with the wrong people. The primary influence should be our families. So start by saying, “Yes.”
Maybe this might not be intuitive to a lot of grandparents—or maybe you’re coming out of a season, where you’re working full time and retirement is on the horizon—you’re going to have that time. Choose a way—we’re all built differently; we’re all designed differently—but choose something/choose a springboard. Maybe it means you’re going to say, “Alright; it was Johnny’s birthday last week,” and “I’m going to take Johnny out. I missed the mark on that.” Start by just choosing something and doing it; that would be the first.
Josh: You love books.
Jen: I love books; yes.
Josh: Talk about how books have been an important disciple-making tool.
Jen: Absolutely. Books are a gateway; books are a tool that can be used to disciple. They are a conversation starter; they become the language of your home. We love to encourage grandparents to build your grandchild’s library of good books—to use books as a disciple-making tool—whether you’re reading the same book at the same time or you’re studying a book of the Bible together. We love just to encourage a lot of books. You can purchase books throughout the seasons: there is a book for every topic/there is a book for every occasion. Books are a gateway to your child’s heart, and we love to encourage grandparents to utilize books as much as possible.
Dave: Now, what about gifts? Do you ever say, “No”? [Laughter] Because I’m married to a woman—I don’t know what our grandparenting budget is—
Ann: There’s a budget? [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; right. It’s like: “Let’s get them a trampoline!” “Let’s get them a jungle gym,” “Let’s get them a bike.” I’m like, “Do we?” [Laughter] “Yes!” But there’s got to be a “No,” sometimes; right?
Jen: Yes; yes.
Dave: You want grandparents to help out and give gifts, but—yes.
Ann: Are you trying to get help?
Dave: I’m just trying to get a little coaching for—[Laughter]
Bob: Just trying to get Josh to weigh in on your side here and say, “Would you tell my wife that we have to put a budget on this please?”
Josh: Well, we all love good gifts; right?
Jen: We do! We do!
Josh: And God loves to lavish good gifts on His kids—
Ann: Oh! Yes, Josh!
Dave: There you go.
Ann: Aww! [Laughter]
Josh: Yes; but we want some intentionality with those gift-givings: “How can we give gifts that help a young person grow into a godly man or a godly woman?—what kinds of things could that look like?”
We think food is a secret weapon—
Jen: Yes—for grandparents—secret weapon!
Ann: Yes, it is!
Josh: We have—I don’t know about you—but I remember the smells and the tastes, going into my grandparent’s house. Many of the things grandparents did in previous generations have been outsourced to others today, and food is one of those. Instead of going to Grandma’s house for dinner on Sunday, we go to a restaurant. I’d say, “Grandparents, take that back!”
Recognize that the food that you serve is important, so be willing to spend some on that. Have the open-refrigerator policy when they come in; stock things that your grandkids are going to like. It’s one way to entice them to come to your home. Utilize—when you look in Scripture, food is just central to God’s people, and to the spiritual growth and health of communities, whether family or the community of God—utilize it for that.
What kind of milestones are special with your grandchildren?—whether it’s coming to faith, a baptism, a big accomplishment in life, a birthday—you can utilize food to tell them how special they are and to recognize those special moments. Grandmother’s, you know, pull out your best—well, I’ll include grandfathers too—but if you’re—guys or ladies—if you like to cook, pull out your best recipes and—
Jen: Pull out those recipes, and make them, and teach your grandchildren how to make them; and carry on that tradition as a family.
Dave: I’m not sure we were intentional about this, but we are now. One of the gifts we can give our grandkids is their parents’ marriage.
Dave: When we go out to Colorado and spend a few days there, we’re like, “Get out of the house, Mom and Dad.” Of course, we want to be with the kids; but even an overnight: “Go away; work on your marriage. You need to.”
The grandson that’s local—almost every week, we’re like, “Cody and Jenna, go out for a date; we’ve got Brice. We’ll put him down; don’t worry about it. You want to spend the night somewhere?—we’ve got him.” That’s a gift to say, “Your marriage matters.”
Josh: That’s a huge gift; yes.
Jen: Yes; that is a good gift.
Dave: “We’re your built-in babysitters. We want to impact your kid anyway—our grandson/granddaughter—
Dave: —“but we want your marriage to be better, and we will help you do it.” What a gift.
Josh: We had five years—maybe it was even a little longer—
Josh:—because of death—that we didn’t have/we had five kids, so it’s not like you can say to somebody, “Hey, can you come watch our five kids overnight?”
Josh: So we had about a five-year stretch, where we didn’t have that. It matters! Don’t underestimate the value of simply saying, “We’ll let you guys get away and spend some quality time together and work on your marriage.”
Bob: Your book is, really, almost an appetizer to everything else you’re working on to try to help cultivate grandparenting. The events that you’re doing, your website—this is something that, if grandparents begin to recognize, “We understand we have a calling; we just need coaching,”—that’s what you’re here to provide; right?
Josh: Correct; yes.
Bob: And I would say to folks, “Start with the book. Make that where you begin.” But then, we’ve got a link on our website to your website, where folks can get more information about upcoming events and all that you’ve got available.
We are so grateful for you guys being here and for the engagement on this subject. I hope that a lot of our listeners are saying, “Okay; we/we’ve got to start taking this a little more seriously and a little more intentionally than we have before.” Thanks for being here.
Josh: Thanks for having us. Thank you.
Jen: Thank you.
Bob: I would, again, encourage people to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—first, to get a copy of the book, Discipling Your Grandchildren—you can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order a copy of Josh’s book. Then click the link for the Legacy Coalition; find out about the Grandparenting Summit that Josh and his team are putting together for March of 2021. Let’s hope we can gather together by March of 2021.
Information about the Legacy Summit is available—again, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com—and click the link to find out more about it or to order Josh’s book, Discipling Your Grandchildren. Again, order online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Before we ever disciple our grandkids, all of us, as parents, disciple our own children; and we can all use a little help in that. Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to talk to Adam Griffin who, together with Pastor Matt Chandler, has written a book called Family Discipleship: Leading Your Home Through Time, Moments and Milestones. We were impressed with this book and thought, “This is going to be helpful for a lot of moms and dads”; so we’re making it available this week to those of you who can support the ministry of FamilyLife with a donation.
Your regular support of this ministry is so vitally important for us to be able to reach more moms and dads/more husbands and wives to bring practical biblical help and hope to marriages and families. You make that possible when you support this ministry. Can I challenge you today to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate? When you do, feel free to request your copy of Adam Griffin and Matt Chandler’s book, Family Discipleship. Again, it’s our thank-you gift. We do appreciate your partnership with us, here, in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk about what real love in a marriage looks like and why—if there’s no love—there’s nothing. Love is the foundation for everything. We’ll talk more about that Monday. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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