For most of us who are grandparents, time with our grandchildren is a gift. We build a satisfying relationship based on the time we spend together and communicate in between visits. And that may be all we want or need.
However, every once in a while it can be helpful to step back and think about whether there may be more we want for our grandchildren and in our grandparenting relationship. What is the legacy we want to leave? How do we want to be remembered? How can we make our relationship even more satisfying than it already is?
We can create a rich and meaningful experience by taking the time to consider what we value in our lives that we want to give to our grandchildren. What do we care most about?
Some ideas are: family history, our values, traditions, stories, skills, talents, special moments, experiences.
We can help create our legacy and build a special bond with our grandchildren by consciously making a kind of virtual “treasure chest” filled with these values and things that matter most to us.
In Parenting Now! Joy of Grandparenting workshops, we do a version of the following exercise that can easily be done at home, it’s just a matter of taking the time to do it.
Choose any of the ideas above and write it on a piece of paper. For example, family history may be important to you. Then write down a specific example, such as “How our great grandparents came to this country” or “Stories from when I was growing up.” Think about how you want to share this family history with your grandchild or grandchildren. Do you want to show them photos, tell them stories, read a book about the times? Do you have “treasures” from when you were growing up or from your parents or grandparent that you can show them? Finally, make a commitment to when you want to do this, to assure that it will happen.
Another example could be values. What values to you want to help instill in your grandchild? What experiences or discussions, stories or activities would help promote those values?
Perhaps you want to support your grandchild’s sense of compassion and caring. With their parents’ permission, you might bring some food or articles of clothing to a homeless shelter and talk about how some people have more difficult lives and how you can help. Or you could talk about the importance of nature and the environment and volunteer with a group to help clean up a beach. You can choose what matters most to you and make a plan. The last step, which is a really important one, is to commit to the time you will do it, and then follow through!
When I did this activity, one of the commitments I made about family history was to share the autobiography my father had written and his family photos with my grandchildren, as well as my grandfather’s stories of coming to this country as a child by boat from Riga, Latvia. My grandchildren especially enjoyed hearing that their great, great grandfather was handed a banana when the boat landed, and having never seen one before, took a big bite out of it, skin and all.
Grandparents who have done this legacy exercise have told us that it brought them closer to their grandchildren and was a deeply satisfying and rich experience as well as fun.
As grandparents our relationship with our grandchildren enriches our lives, and when we take the time and thought to help create our legacy, that can make an even richer experience for us and our grandchildren.
Minalee Saks is the Founding Director Emerita of Parenting Now!, a nonprofit offering groups and workshops so that all children are raised by nurturing, skilled parents. Contact Parenting Now! at www.parentingnow.org, on social media and at 541-484-5316.
The next Joy of Grandparenting workshop will be 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 6, at Parenting Now!, 86 Centennial Loop, and costs $39, $60 for a couple. Register at parentingnow.org.
This article appeared in the March 18, 2019 edition of the Register-Guard.