Grandparents have an important role to play

Growing older has its compensations – not least if it involves having grandchildren! Certainly one of the most rewarding developments in our lives is that Caroline and I are grand-parents. Yes, we are the proud grandparents of Jemima and Raphael, Felix and Clara, and most recently of David and his step-sister Sophie and his step-brother Theo. To our delight four of our grandchildren live in East London, less than an hour’s drive away when the traffic is flowing, so we see a good deal of Jemima and Raphael, and of Felix and Clara. Sadly David, Sophie and Theo live in Vancouver, a long flight away. Nonetheless in the last sixteen months we have seen them twice – last year we went to Vancouver, and this May they came over here. And now, this November, Caroline is off to Vancouver to visit them again.

Grandchildren are special – as one wit put it, ‘The idea that no one is perfect is a view most commonly held by people with no grandchildren!’. On the other hand, while ‘an hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again, anything longer than that, and you start to age quickly!’

But grandparents are also special. Indeed, there is even a Grandparents Day in honour of grandparents. Initially an American institution, when the first Grandparents Day was proclaimed in West Virginia, in 1978 the US Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labour Day as National Grandparents Day. Since then other countries have adopted Grandparents Day. It was introduced here in the UK in 1990 by the charity Age Concern, and – as I have only just discovered – is celebrated on the first Sunday in October! Grandparents Day is billed as an occasion to celebrate the role grandparents have in shaping future generations.

In preparing for this blog I came across the following seven ‘facts’ about grandparents:

  1. 72% of grandparents consider their role to be one of the most important things in their lives
  2. 68% of grandparents think that caring for their grandchildren has brought them close to their adult children.
  3. Children who are regularly see their grandparents have shown to develop better emotional and social skills
  4. Grandparents provide an amazing £33 billion worth of day care for free!
  5. 33% of grandparents share their hobbies with their grandchildren
  6. Nine in 10 grandparents regularly use email and 12% of those also use Facebook – so be careful which pictures you choose to share online!
  7. Grandparents represent one third of the population in the UK, with 1.7 million new grandparents added every year

But, for Christian grandparents, there is a further fact of which they need to be aware: viz. the significant role they can have in sharing their faith with their grandchildren. In this regard one American Presbyterian minister working in one of the more deprived areas of New York said: “We never tell the kids to say ‘Our Father’ in the Lord’s Prayer, because most of their fathers are alcoholic or absent. The person who represents God to them most of all was their grandmother”. That is a sobering thought. And yet, the truth is that grandmothers and grandfathers for that matter can have a real influence on their grandchildren’s understanding of God. As the Apostle Paul once reminded his young friend Timothy: his faith had in the first place been shaped by his grandmother, Lois (2 Tim 1.5). Grandparents do indeed have an exciting, but challenging, role to play.

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