The Joy of Being a Grandparent
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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
There is so much fun that comes with being a grandparentâ€”sleepovers, reading books together, and connecting with each grandchild uniquely. Mary Larmoyeux explains the lasting value of grandparents.
The Joy of Being a Grandparent
Bob: You've probably seen the bumper sticker that says “If I'd known grandchildren were going to be this great, I'd have had them first”? Mary Larmoyeux says she agrees.
Mary: There's nothing like being a grandparent; people tell you that, and you don't know it until you see that first grandbaby, and you hold that grandchild, and then you see your legacy going on. There's no way to explain it; it just happens. It's just a God-given emotion when you hold that grandbaby, but you'll never be the same.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 28th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. There is a lot of sentiment attached to being a grandparent, but there's a lot of work involved too. We'll talk today about our assignment to be more intentional as grandparents. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Do you have special memories of grandparents, who came to visit you or who lived nearby? What do you remember?
Ann: Oh, my grandmother, Faye—I called her Nana—
Dave: —which Ann is named after: Faye.
Ann: —she spoiled me. Every school year, at the beginning of the school year, she would take me shopping. We were tight on money, but my grandmother would let me pick out a special school outfit for the year; and she would buy all the accessories with it. I just thought it was the best day of the year for me—sometimes better than Christmas—because all the attention was on me.
I have so many memories of her. I remember thinking, “I want to be just like her,”—probably more so than even my mom—because I had a connection with her that was very unique; maybe because I was named after her? She still is one of my most fond memories and one of my most favorite people in the whole world.
Bob: Dave, what about you? Any grandparent memories that stand out?
Dave: Well, I didn't know my dad's parents; I think I met them one time, and I don't even remember.
Dave: My mom's parents probably were the rock when I went through the divorce when I was seven, and my little brother dying when I was eight. I can remember going to Hallie and Leland's house. I don’t remember what I called them; I don’t know what I called them. But just as I think about walking in their back door, I feel loved; I feel safe; I feel joy. I didn't feel that very many places in my life at that time, so they were the source of—actually, my grandfather was very strict—I won't even say some of the words I can remember him saying. [Laughter] His wife/my grandmother—she was a lover of me and made me believe in myself. It was a comforting space in the world.
Bob: We're talking about the power and the importance of grandparents this week on FamilyLife Today. Mary Larmoyeux is joining us. Welcome back, Mary.
Mary: Thank you. It's great to be here.
Bob: Mary was a long-time member of our team, here, at Family Life®—many articles, still online at FamilyLife.com, that Mary authored.
She has written a book called One-of-a-Kind Grandparent Connection that really takes us into your experience as a grandparent; but you're coaching the rest of us and saying: “This is a divine assignment for you. If you have grandkids, God's got a purpose for you.”
Mary: Right; as far as you have a divine assignment for your children, same thing with your grandchildren.
Dave: What's the One-of-a-Kind?
Mary: Oh, One-of-a-Kind?
Dave: What did you mean by that?
Mary: Each grandchild and each person—there's a unique connection that you'll have with that one grandchild. Because if you have more than one grandchild, or if you have more than one child, they are different. It's the same thing with your grandkids—they're all different—so it's trying to find how to really connect and link with that grandchild.
And then building a legacy with your grandchild—I was thinking about that, coming in here, but a legacy is something of value that you leave. Really, what you're wanting to do is: “What do I want to leave with this grandchild?” “What is the inheritance I want to give them?” “How can we do it together?—whether they live nearby or far away.”
Some people don't have a relationship with their grandkids. That's very sad—they have no relationship—but they still can build that legacy. The can still write that grandchild letters; they can still give them that history of family. I know, in this book, there's some stories of people like that, where people discovered grandparents had been praying for them—and they never, ever met the grandparent—and yet that person made a humongous impact on them.
Bob: Part of that legacy you're talking about is the legacy of who we are as a family—
Bob: —“What's our family heritage and history?” and “How do we see God's hand in the midst of that?” You are the connector for your grandkids. I remember Al Mohler, in the Art of Parenting®, made the statement—he said, “You are someone's ancestors. People you will never meet—you are their ancestors.”
You're able to connect your grandkids with what's been true about the Larmoyeux family for generations and help them feel connected to something bigger than just their nuclear family.
Ann: Mary, you talk about the importance of personal stories. As I read that, I resonated because I thought, “Oh, I wish I had found out and asked more questions of my grandparents about their parents.” But you talk about actually writing your stories.
Mary: Right; writing them. Honestly, I think most of us are like that; I'm like that. I think about my grandparents and the things they lived through. It's like I cannot believe that they lived through the Second World War, the Depression—all these things—it was like: “Yes, uh huh; you did that.” I never thought much about it until they're gone, and I'm older.
I think, for our grandkids, we need to think about what we're living through now. If you can get their interest/if they're older, have them ask you some questions and interview you. You can even have them write down some of the family history. I don't think they're thinking that way now, just like we didn't.
Bob: But it will come.
Mary: It will come.
Bob: My daughter/my oldest daughter grabbed the video camera before my mom passed away. She spent a morning with my mom, interviewing her and getting her on video to talk about: “What was like in the Depression?” “When did you hear about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?” “What was it like going through World War II?”
We're going to have grandkids, who are going to say, “Tell us about 9-11.” All of this stuff is going to be part of the heritage that our kids are going to want to know.
Dave: Tell me this—you write about it a little bit in the book—how about the stories of your faith. How do you transfer that down?
Mary: Well, with the stories of your faith, you can write what happened. I know I've written down how I became a Christian; my husband did that too. One Easter, we both went into detail about it. We saved those letters; because the kids were too little, and we didn't think it was time for them to get that letter. We just gave them a general letter about the meaning of Easter, and Christ rising from the dead, and just our salvation.
I think it's just in our day-to-day lives. It's looking at a beautiful sunrise or sunset and how God has created it. It's sharing a challenge you're going through; maybe with some of the older grandkids. ask them to pray. Let them know how dependent you are on God/that He really is in your life. It's not just a “Go to church on Sunday” check off the box, but faith is vibrant and alive. That's what I want our grandkids to know.
Bob: I want to read to you eight verses from Psalm 78, because this is what comes to mind to me when you're talking about this. The Psalmist—this is Asaph, not David—Asaph wrote this psalm; he said:
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our father's have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell them to the coming generation,
You see this whole transference there: fathers, and children, and their children. And what are they telling them?
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might and the wonders that He has done.
You pause there and you look at that verse—passing on the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might and the wonders that He's done—I think part of that means you share the Scriptures with your grandkids. You read them Bible stories: you tell them about what God did with Joseph, and what He did with Abraham, and what He did with Moses, and Daniel, and Jesus. You tell them those things; but you also tell them the glorious deeds of the Lord and His might in your life and in the life of your family. It's not just what God used to do in the olden days; it's what God's still doing in our life today.
It goes on to say:
He established a testimony in Jacob; appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded to our fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know, the children yet unborn, arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments,
And then there's this:
that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
We've talked, many times before, about the great joy there is, as parents, when your kids are walking in the truth. The parallel part of that is there's great grief, as parents, when your kids aren't walking in the truth. A part of the way that we are faithful to see our children walking in the truth is to follow the instruction of Psalm 78; and pass on the truth about who God is from His Word, but the truth of who God is in your own story and in your own life.
You have to wonder: “Do your grandkids/are they old enough to know your testimony? Have you ever told them your testimony?” or “Have you shared with them what God's been doing in your life recently?” This is a part of what we're called to do.
Dave: Yes, when you say that/when you read that, I mean that passage, Psalm 78, has meant a lot to me, as I had to decide when we got married and became a dad, to change a legacy. The legacy was alcohol, and adultery, and divorce; and it's like, “Okay, can the Wilson name be changed?”
It's interesting—we've mentioned this here before—but as you think about the Ten Commandments, where God says, “The sins of the father”—which you just sort of hinted at—“will visit down to the third and fourth generation.” A lot of people don't know what He said next; right there in Exodus 20, He says, “But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep my commandments.”
So we always think, you know, “If I mess up, it's going to affect my family line”—but He also says—“No, no, no; if you're righteous and you obey, it doesn't just affect three or four generations—a thousand generations,” which makes me think of a song.
Let me play you something. This song is very popular right now—I think written by Kari Jobe; I'm not sure; I know she sings it—but there's a bridge. The first time I heard it, I really teared up; because I was thinking about my own life, and the opportunity to change our legacy. She's really reflecting from Exodus 20. It goes—[Dave singing from The Blessing]
I mean, it's such a beautiful reminder; that's why I teared up. It's like, “May His favor be upon you, and your family, and your kids.” And then, when I heard the next line—the first time I ever heard it—“and their kids and their children,”—it was like, “Oh, my goodness; what an opportunity God has given us, as grandparents, to impact generation after generation.”
Mary, your book is helping us do that; it's such a beautiful testament to the legacy God has called us all to leave.
Ann: And it's hopeful, too; because I look at your legacy, Dave—and there were so many hard things in it—and yet I watched you, as a dad with our kids; and it's amazing to see God transform something.
I think it's important, too, to even talk about—like for me, with your family—Dave's mom was an amazing woman, but she also had an alcohol problem; so talking to my kids—like what to say or what not to say. I think it's important for us, as parents: “How we relay our opinion of their grandparents onto them is very important,”—not to hurt, not to slander their name, not to bring out all the junk.
If you're hurt by your own parents, it can be very easy to do that. Dave, you didn't have the best of legacies in some ways; but you still never talked negatively about your parents.
Dave: I think my kids loved my mom and dad.
Ann: And yet, we also had some boundaries around situations.
Talk about that, Mary: “How can we, as parents/how can we help that connection with their parents or the kids’ grandparents?”
Mary: Well, I think they can encourage their parents, as far as telling them how important it is for them to connect with their kids. They want them to do that; they want them to share about their past, as far as their family and faith, and things like that.
If there's a negative situation like that, I've always thought you need to honor your grandparents, and honor their names. Now, when they reach a certain age—the kids are older—you might want to tell them some of the strengths and some of the weaknesses of a grandparent, just to let them know the reality of life/the reality of situations. But that would be age-appropriate; I think you'd still want to do it in a way that honors them.
One thing that surprised me—I know I became a Christian when I was about 18, actually—but one thing that surprised me was all the negative things in the Bible. You know, God doesn't mince words with Noah and all these problems all these people have. I was raised in a family where, if you can't say something nice, you just don't say it. God says many nice things, but He says many things that aren't so nice; that's just reality.
And life itself—we're not in heaven yet—and it's messy. God is a God of grace. I think, when we share, in a loving way, a weakness of maybe an ancestor, we can talk about how we all need grace and we'll all fail. And I know—I wrote it in the book; I jotted this down just to remember—it's a quote by Billy Graham; he said, “Don't be bound by the past and its failures, but don't forget its lessons.” I think that would just be what those parents should do—is honor those grandparents, and not to be bound by it, but to learn the lessons and move on.
That's what you're doing, Dave; you're moving on.
Dave: What does a grandparent do if you're trying—especially even with your faith—you're trying to instill things in your grandkids, and your own son and daughter maybe, are telling you: “Stay away,” or “Calm it down,” or—
Ann: —putting limitations on you.
Dave: —putting limitations.
Mary: I think that's a common challenge. I've watched what others have done; and you know, just looked in my own life with different things. I don't think you go beyond the parents’ boundary; you want that relationship with that grandchild, and so you honor that. But in any way possible, where you can share your faith, you do that; but you honor that relationship.
I have a good friend, who is in that situation. She could not send books that were Christian books; she couldn't do anything. She just had to honor it. But you know, as the child gets older, and they know that grandparent, then there will be more opportunities.
Bob: And it could be that you write letters that you never send.
Mary: Yes; that's what they do.
Bob: It could be that you write in your Bible that you never give. Someday, it's likely that that child is going to discover something that was written to them, and the story's going to be bigger and more clear. You can still be faithful, even if you can't deliver it in the moment; right?
Mary: Right; right. You can. You can have a whole package of things ready for them when you're dead and gone, for someone to give to that child.
Dave: I know we all feel this—but especially if you come from a legacy that wasn't godly/Christ was never really talked about—I've always had this dream that someday—Bob mentioned it earlier—that my great, great, great grandchildren will point out a picture of Dave and Ann Wilson and go: “There's our legacy; he and she started who we are today.
Dave: “We are the Wilsons, and we believe in Jesus, and we live for the kingdom. It started with them.” You know, that's—I tear up—I mean, I feel like my kids get to do that, but I feel that's my call.
Mary: Right; and that's a huge call.
Mary: It's changing the trajectory of a whole family.
Dave: Yes, and it doesn't end when you become a grandparent.
Dave: It actually becomes stronger.
Ann: I think the conversations that we can have with our grandkids are priceless and precious. I know that I have had many nights, laying in bed with my granddaughter, and she asks so many questions. I’ve raised three sons; and they didn't ask all these questions, as a five-year-old. She was telling me the other night; she said, “Nonny, I've been telling my friends all about how you and Poppy tell everyone in the world about Jesus.” And she's so open; she said, “Do you think that I should talk more about Him?”
And so these conversations—you know, as a parent you're more rushed—but as a grandparent, I sat there in that bed that night, tears just falling down my cheeks, thinking, “I want this girl to know Jesus and she, already, is tasting that.” I told her, “Olive, we are going to travel around the world and tell people about Jesus.” And she's like, “When are we going?”—you know? These are just precious, precious times. We need to take every moment, and just take that in, because they're precious.
Bob: Mary, this is such a great gift—to have your book, your thoughts, your help on this. If you were sitting down with somebody, who found out that they're going to be a grandparent—their first grandchild has not been born yet; it's just around the corner—so they're about to enter in to this phase; and they said: “What's your best one piece of advice? What's the one thing you'd tell me as I move into these years?”—do you know what it would be?
Mary: I'd say love unconditionally and pray for that grandchild.
There's nothing like being a grandparent. People tell you that; and you don't know it until you see that first grandbaby; and you hold that grandchild. And then you see your legacy going on. There's no way to explain it. It just happens; it's a God-given emotion when you hold that grandbaby, but you'll never be the same.
Ann: Let me give just one more tip, too, to parents. I think sometimes as grandparents, we can feel insecure in what they want our role to be. So to even have that conversation with your own kids. I know that I've asked: “What do you guys desire? What does that look like for your kids?”
I can feel insecure thinking: “Do they want us?” “Do they not want us?” I think it's just an open, great conversation to have: “What would you like it to look like?”
Dave: I can guarantee you this: “The grandkids want you. [Laughter]
Mary: Yes; they do.
Dave: “So be there!”
Mary: Right; right. I agree.
Bob: Mary, thanks for being with us. Thanks for this book.
Mary: Thank you, Bob. Thank y'all for having me today. I've enjoyed it.
Bob: We hope our listeners will get a copy. In fact, we're making your book available this week to listeners who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife. We are listener-supported. The fact that we had this conversation today—and hundreds of thousands of people have been with us for the conversation—all of that has happened because listeners, like you, have made it happen by supporting the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
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Now, tomorrow, we're going to talk more about love and what real love looks like. I think
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