Qualities That Make a Grandparent into a Saint
The word “saint” has a variety of meanings. Here, it refers specifically to someone whose life merits the highest honor.
While grandchildren may not be interested in canonization, some regard their grandparents with utmost respect. They summarize their feelings with statements like “My grandmother is a saint,” or “I have a saint for a grandfather.”
In recent years, grandparents are becoming even more saintly. According to a 2010 study reported by Amy Goyer in AARP Magazine, grandparents have replaced parents as heads of household for 4.9 million American children under age 18, and the numbers increase every year. In the Caribbean, many children from teenage parents are raised by grandparents.
There is also the The Granny Nanny Phenomenon in which grandparents become live-in nannies to help raise the grandchildren and cut the cost of living for both parents and grandparents. In such multigenerational households, grandparents become a fixed dimension in the family unit with endless opportunity to enjoy and influence the grandchildren.
From personal experience and the many stories of grandparents’ saintly performances, here are some observations concerning the qualities that make a grandparent into a saint-- at least, in the grandchildren’s opinions.
Becoming a grandmother is wonderful. One moment you're just a mother. The next you are all-wise and prehistoric. - Pam Brown
Grandparents tend to receive more reverence from the grandchildren than from their own children. The grandchildren see them as old and (if rightly influenced by the parents) they learn to respect age. Grandparents are accepted as honorable and wise. They are expected to know the answers to all the questions and to be fair in their judgments.
Grandchildren admire grandparents for having authority over their parents. Grandparents in their twenties and thirties are limited in the experience; they have to learn to establish their position without the veteran parent qualification.
What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies. - Rudolph Giuliani
Grandparents' love tanks are always full. They are the ones whose eyes light up at the sight of the grandchildren. They are forgetful and forgiving about the misdeeds of the youngsters. They use terms of endearment, and prophetic titles. What grandchild does not remember a name or an affectionate phrase that came regularly from a grandparent’s lips?
As for accepting love, grandparents they border on fanaticism. A toddler’s attempt to say grandma comes up in every conversation for a week; a preschooler’s drawing of grandma and grandpa gets the prime spot in the family room. Almost every word and gesture are evidence of the grandchild’s love, and this kind of acceptance makes the grandchild feel worthy.
Older grandparents are better at picking their battles when it comes to discipline. They know from experience that love, patience and kindness are gentler, more effective tools than angry scolding. They personify love for the grandchildren.
The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy. - Sam Levenson
Many grandchildren pray for the grandparents to see them through the years under their parents’ jurisdiction. They need trusting grandparents to help them relate how they got into trouble and to convince the unreasonable (their opinion) parents that their apology is sincere. They need understanding grandparents to help the insensitive (their opinion) parents see that their restrictions are too harsh. They foresee a difficult life without grandparents who are the mediators between youth just wanting to enjoy life and parents who see danger around every corner.
When wise grandparents get involved, they usually show the parents a more positive perspective while respecting their authority. Whenever the grandparent creates an effective strategy for compromise, the grandchildren know for sure that grandparents have a spiritual connection.
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Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. - Alex Haley
Grandparents’ affirmation and commitment to support promote joy and confidence in their grandchildren’s hearts. What sacrifice the grandparents make to show up at ball games, recitals, graduations and weddings! The grandchildren feel honored when what they do is important enough to merit the approval and participation of the grandparents.
Much of my paternal grandmother’s support was financial. My father died when I was an infant, and his mother provided for my needs from infancy through my high school years. I remember her saying, “It doesn’t matter if I do not have it; if you need it, I’ll try my best to get it for you.” Those to me, are words of a saint.
My mother and I lived with her mother who was the single most influential person in my life. She was the person I most wanted to be like. Her spiritual posture and wisdom are still the qualities to which I aspire. Her continual affirmations and trust in me fed my sense of worth. The highest compliment I have ever received is from those who say that my words or deeds remind them of my grandmother. I’ve been blessed with two saints for grandmothers.
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"What a wonderful contribution our grandmothers and grandfathers can make if they will share some of the rich experiences and their testimonies with their children and grandchildren."
- Vaughn J. Featherstone
In most households, some parents are still struggling to become . . . and the children see in their struggle the difficulties of adulthood. They watch the parents shuffle bill payments while exerting great effort to keep the family functional. They would be encouraged to see how this side of parenting pays off.
Meanwhile the older grandparents tell stories of how they persevered until life became more manageable. They are heroes in causes they supported. They tell how they have overcome as individuals or as part of a team. They point to structures they helped to build and laws they helped to change. They have made their marks and received awards. They offer a challenge to the grandchildren to do something similar or to continue what they started. Because of the grandparents’ stories of overcoming, the children understand that there is reward for their parents’ labors, and will eventually be for theirs.
Grandparents are the proof that life is worth the struggle; and that it is possible to progress to the stage where pride, joy and satisfaction enhance the portrait of family. They empower the grandchildren in ways only saints could.
© 2013 Dora Isaac Weithers
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