Grandmothering

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Here’s what I did not know over 50 years ago when my firstborn son was placed in my arms. It was not enough to count all his toes and fingers. I did that traditional review with all four of my children when each one was placed in my arms shortly after birth. They all had the requisite small toes and fingers, two eyes, two ears, they all passed the mother-newborn review.

What I could not measure was the mental toughness, the emotional strength each child would need to negotiate a world that offers both good and evil. And I didn’t pause to recognize that I could not see or know what God knew about this baby from the beginning of time. I thank God for that because in this case ignorance was a blessing. Imagine if mothers of newborns could know when a toddler would fall down the stairs, when a young child would be seriously ill, close to death, or the reality that mental illness or addiction would stalk them through their adult lives. If caring mothers could know what dangers, what heart wounds, what disappointments their children would face, the birthrate might drop to close to none. Honestly, I believe we would gladly know the triumphs, the successes, the joys that our infants might experience but to rock and nurse that infant knowing that the future held trauma that you could not prevent, that would be torture. What do we wish for our children? Do we want them to be happy? Successful? Financially secure? What traits do we want them to have? Do we want them to be adventurous? Compassionate? Wise? What traits do we not want them to have? Selfishness? Overly timid? Laziness?

I am now a grandmother to 12 grandchildren, including two gained through a late in life marriage. I count six others as grandchildren adopted in my heart. I am wiser as a grandmother than I was as a mother. Age sharpens and mellows at the same time. And I know God in a much deeper way. I tended to be a Sunday Christian in the years I raised my four children. I loved God. As a child, the church across the street was my refuge. I spent time there contemplating the crucifix, feeling comforted and confused at the same time. Evening family prayer time was part of my life growing up but my Christianity was shallow. Having my children know and accept Jesus Christ was not the first thing on my priority list for my children. It was on that list somewhere but not at the top. It is at the top of my wish list for my grandchildren. It is in my daily prayers. If they know God, then their lives won’t necessarily be trouble free, but they will live with a joyful hope that nothing can extinguish.

Recently a woman who describes herself as a believer in Christ told me that she allowed an adult non believing daughter to race into a decision that was immoral. She offered no conversation about the immorality of her daughter’s actions. “I just wanted her to be happy and she seemed so happy.” I responded, “I thought you wanted her to come to Christ, to be a believer. You say you are a believer. I am not sure that we should want happiness for our children above knowing God.”

I didn’t push farther as she became defensive. I didn’t tell her that two of her grandchildren had told me that their grandmother said one thing but did not show that in her life. It bothered them as the only exposure they have to Christianity is through that grandmother. Being a grandparent is a joy, a blessing, an amazing experience. I treasure it. And I pray to be a truth teller to each of my much loved grandchildren. When the opportunity is there, I share my belief in Christ. What I say varies with each child because each one is unique and each is at a different stage and place in life. But I know that my first hope for them is not that they be happy, it is that they each know the Lord and grow in that knowledge all of their lives.

1 John 3:7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. the one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. Jesus, I pray I never lead any of my grandchildren astray by word or action. I pray I will be a witness for you in my role as a grandparent. I pray all of my grandchildren will come to know you, love you and follow you. In your precious name, Amen.


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