Tyndale House Publishers
Hi! I’m Tim Kimmel, but you can call me Grandpa.
And I’m Darcy Kimmel, and you can call me Darcy.
As you know, parents get the naming rights on their children, but grandchildren seem to get naming rights for their grandparents. Grandchildren get to call us whatever they come up with when they start to talk. Before it’s over, we could end up being called any one of a bunch of names: Nana, Mimi, or Gramma; Papa, Granddad, or Pap. And we’ll answer to any of them.
We relish our title of grandparents and, just like you, are desirous to know all we can about the grand role that we have the privilege of playing. Over the past three decades, we have been studying family relationships, writing about them, speaking about them, and encouraging others to fulfill their commitments and keep their promises.
Although we have dedicated our lives to educate, equip, and encourage families for every age and stage of life, we do not consider ourselves experts. We’re just veterans. We each grew up in a family with six children. We have been doing constant research on the dynamics within families since we started Family Matters back in 1982. So far, we have published 10 books on how to let grace flourish within families. We’ve spoken to literally millions of people along the way about how to make the most of the unique relationships within marriage and the extended family.
God was wise to give us four children of our own to keep us in touch with reality. And realizing that a day would come when we would enter the holy of holies of parenting—grandparenting—we have been focusing on this wonderful role and taking detailed notes along the way. We have learned from the experiences of other grandparents and from the examples of our own parents (our children’s grandparents) and grandparents, and we have learned from being grandparents ourselves. We are very excited to share with you what we have learned from our research, our observations, our interactions, our biblical study, and our own personal adventure down the back roads of grandparenthood. As you shift gears into this new thrill of grandparenthood, you are in for the ride of your life!
There was a time when grandparents looked like their houses often smelled: old, musty, out of date, and out of touch. Some still do. Most don’t.
You may not have heard the rumor going around, but the word on the street is that 60 is the new 40!
And it’s not just a physical thing we’re talking about. Grandparents not only look younger, they often act younger and think younger than the grandparents who came alongside them when they were children.
It’s not out of the question to see a grandmother stop by Starbucks on her way home from the gym. She orders a Frappuccino (“nonfat milk, please”), pulls out her BlackBerry to check her email, and then text messages a business contact in Australia followed by another to her son at a university three states away. She may have five or six decades of living in her rearview mirror, but she is as contemporary as the New York Times sitting on the rack in the corner of the coffee shop.
A generation before, this woman’s husband was more likely to have worn a blue collar to work than a white one. He would have been a tradesman or a man who worked with the land. His commute home from work was seldom more than a few miles. He was one of those grandfathers who still washed his own car and shingled his own roof. And there was a day on the calendar when he knew he would be able to walk away from his work for good and live on his Social Security.
Most likely, the man married to this Starbucks grandmother has a college education, a passport with several stamps in it, and more money in his retirement accounts than his grandparents made in their entire lives. He doesn’t make major repairs on his car or house. It’s not that he’s incapable of doing these things, but they simply don’t make economic sense for him. Besides, his crowded schedule doesn’t afford him the necessary time those chores of the past required.
And if you want to see any recent pictures of the grandkids who fill these people’s hearts with so much pride, they can make them appear on the screens of their cell phones in about the time it takes you to ask them if they’d mind.
The one thing today’s grandparents have in common with their predecessors in past generations is that they carry in their hearts an innate and overwhelming love for their grandchildren. We call it a “Grand Love.” We’re convinced it’s a God thing. Since the time Adam and Eve became the first grandparents, people in this role have always been inclined to spill over with pride when they think or talk of their grandkids.
But that is about as far as the comparison to our predecessors goes.
Today’s grandparents have to process far more complex dynamics with the children whose photographs cover the doors of their refrigerators. For starters, grandchildren are more likely to be scattered all over the map of the Northern Hemisphere with multiple time zones separating them from their grandparents. This makes it far more difficult to enjoy the hands-on influence for which grandparenthood is known.
Because of the impact of divorce that haunts this new crop of grandparents, it’s not uncommon that a breakup has occurred— either in the grandparents’ marriage or in the marriage of one of their children. Besides the stress this puts on the kids and the “yours, mine, and ours” pressure this puts on the parents, grandparents are having to figure out where they fit into the lives of the kids within these blended families that often grow on one or more limbs of their family trees.
When it comes to finances, decades of a growing economy and rising property values have created grandparents who come to their position with far more discretionary resources than their successful counterparts in former generations. And there are a lot more of these types of grandparents. We’re not suggesting that the average grandparents are wealthy. They aren’t. And there are still many who come to their position with tight margins in their finances. But more and more, this generation of grandparents clearly has greater financial options going for them. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Money often complicates the relationships between grandparents and their offspring. When it comes to the financial holes children can dig for themselves, many of today’s young families are deeper in debt than were parents raising their kids in the closing decades of the twentieth century. These financial challenges often create an economic connection between grandparents and their children that fogs up the bigger family picture. Where is the boundary line between being involved too much or too little in our children’s financial lives?
And what about the challenges facing parents trying to raise their children within today’s moral climate? Reality may not always be the bearer of good news, but it nonetheless must be embraced. The fact is that today’s parents come to their jobs with far more cultural competition against their moral values and far less understanding of how to raise truly great kids. Today’s grandchildren process enormous challenges to their concept of personal identity, their sense of confidence, their view of success, and their ability to figure out where they fit in the bigger world that surrounds them. All this simply means that grandparents can’t assume they can ever come close to carrying out their God-given responsibilities if they are only giving accidental attention to their job.
On the contrary, if grandparents want to make a positive difference in their grandchildren’s lives, they must have a plan.
We’ve got one for you. We didn’t make it up. God did. As always, the God who dreamed up intergenerational societies based on healthy families left a schematic in His Word for how to be an effective grandparent. As it turns out, God saw fit to give us grandparents four basic roles to play in our grandchildren’s lives. We’ll show you exactly what they are. And when we carry out these roles, we get a chance to not only help our grandchildren live far more fulfilling lives, but also increase their chances of making a significant impact on eternity.
Even with a plan, there are factors that complicate our ability to play these roles. Perhaps you didn’t do as effective a job of raising your kids as you would have liked. The sins of commission and omission stalk your relationship with your kids. Perhaps this has left some heavy chips on your children’s shoulders and some serious distance between their hearts and yours. These emotional distances often make it difficult for grandparents to play a significant part in their grandchildren’s lives. We’re going to help you with this.
We’re going to learn about grandparenting up close as well as from a distance. We’ll talk about the money issues, the time issues, and the discipline issues. And we’re going to deal with the problem that millions of grandparents are contending with—playing the role of parent to their grandchildren. We’ll show you how to make the most of this often-difficult situation.
We’ll look at the problems that develop and the kind of position you can play in your grandchildren’s lives when your own children go through a divorce.
It’s not uncommon for our children to take themselves and their families in a different spiritual direction than our convictions would prefer. We’ll learn how to walk the delicate balance this scenario requires.
And there’s the issue of spoiling and favoritism. How do you spoil “properly” and avoid favoritism altogether? We’ll show you how. Grandparenthood is not just another phase of your life; it’s a sacred calling. You have the opportunity to influence another generation of children; you play an eternal role in their lives. It’s not often that we get such a significant second chance.
It doesn’t matter whether you prefer listening to your music on a cassette or an iPod, whether you drop your checks in the mail or pay your bills online, whether you’ve been around the world or barely cleared the county line, you can play a profound and contemporary role as a grandparent. And you can have a blast in the process, having more fun than you ever did as a parent. Not only that, but you can help other grandparents be better equipped too.
You hold in your hands the big picture of grandparenting. Having the bigger picture in your mind and eternity in your heart turns inconvenience into opportunity, sacrifice into significance, and more of your time and energy into profound ministry in your grandchildren’s lives. Knowing your clearly defined roles keeps the end product in mind.
Just like with parenting, the days may seem long, but the years are even shorter. That’s why we must not only step up to the opportunity before us, but do so in a way that has the most lasting impact for good.
A great precept we ran across early in our lives that has helped us make wise choices about the things that matter most is this: Never sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate. When it comes to our role as grandparents, there are a lot of low priorities that masquerade as urgent ones. There are a lot of myths and lies that masquerade as conventional wisdom. We’re going to help you separate the wheat from the chaff. When you are done reading this book, you will understand the amazing opportunity you have been given and will have learned the priorities that will keep you from allowing the immediate to hold you hostage.
This book not only develops the overarching principles and the practical ways you can bring the best out of your grandchildren, but it contains tools that will show you how to use its principles until they become second nature. And the coolest thing is that it provides all you need to study it with others in your church or neighborhood who want to be better grandparents too.
Whether you’re new to the role or a seasoned veteran, your confidence and stock value are going to go up by the time you get to the end of this book. In the process, you are going to gain a better grip on the joy that can be found in loving your children’s children.
For Further Thought and Discussion
One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They will tell of the power of your awesome works,
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They will celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness. (Psalm 145:4-7)
1. What are some of the differences you see in the grandparents today and your parents or grandparents?
2. Based on those differences, what advantages did your parents or grandparents have? What advantages do you have in your role of grandparenthood today?
3. What are you hoping to learn or gain as a result of reading this book?
Thank You for this blessing of grandchildren. As I read this book, please speak to my heart and help me to be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit as I seek to grow in my role. I want to be the best grandparent I can be and I can only do that with Your help. Please show me how I can celebrate Your abundant goodness and commend Your works to my grandchildren. Amen.