Hallmark invites us to celebrate Grandparent Day in September – this year, September 13th. I asked one of our Guest Bloggers, Kathy Bueno, to share her reflection on being a Grandparent. Kathy and her husband, Julián have been full-time grandparents for their two grandchildren.
Thank you Kathy, for sharing your reflection with us.
“Children are a heritage from the LORD.” (Ps. 127:3)
My husband is from a small village in the mountains of the province of Burgos, Spain. It is one of our favorite places to visit. Although his siblings have all moved to big cities, they have kept the house in the pueblo and have remodeled it to accommodate children and grandchildren. That is where I first observed a way of grandparenting that deeply moved my soul.
My husband’s oldest sister, and a friend from el pueblo share childcare duties for their two grandchildren. During the summer when they are in el pueblo, the children have dinner and spend the night in their rooms at their maternal abuela’s house. After breakfast and their early morning routine, the whole pueblo is the children’s playground. In fact, the last time we were there an epic water balloon battle took place in the plaza involving teams of children and parents. Also, my sister-in-law often organizes hikes to go wade in the river Ebro or to climb up the peak above the pueblo for a picnic snack. During the day, their adventures take the grandchildren back and forth between their two abuela’s houses. Sometimes they have lunch, the main meal of the day, and siesta time at their paternal abuela’s house. Other times they spend the afternoon at her house and share the evening meal, especially if they are engaged in a marathon of board games or plan to grab blankets and go outside to star gaze after dinner. During the school year in the big city, las abuelas continue to share after-school child care duties since they live in nearby neighborhoods. There is no doubt that these children are well loved by their abuelas and their parents, who live out Pope Francis’ teaching to “take care of their hearts, their joys, their hopes” (Aleteia, Oct. 16, 2019).
When my husband and I neared retirement, we considered briefly relocating to a warmer climate near long-time friends in Texas. Our daughter and son-in-law got their first jobs out of college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Like many families, we did our best to plan trips in order to spend time together. Eventually, the pull of family ties led our daughter and her husband to move to the Chicago area to be closer to family. Once we retired, my husband and I asked ourselves, “What were we thinking? We can’t move to Texas!” Long story short, we now live in a suburb of Chicago, too. When we got the joyful news that our first grandchild was due in May of 2013, I reflected on our experiences in the pueblo. One day, I asked my husband, “What do you think about offering to provide child care for our grandchild?” He readily agreed. And so, we embarked on what we both like to call “our best job ever!”
We now have two grandchildren aged 4 and 7. And, yes, we have been through diapers, tantrums, time outs, transitioning from naps to “quiet rest time,” and potty training again. However, we have had the honor of spending most of our days playing with our grandchildren, “a way to transmit the faith. It is graciousness, the graciousness of God” (Pope Francis Aleteia, Oct. 16, 2019). Whether we are helping our grandson learn to skate, building “forts” out of blankets and chairs so we can have a pretend tea party with our granddaughter and her stuffed animals, or doing craft projects with both of them, we endeavor to practice what Fred Rogers called the “sacred” act of appreciation. As he wrote in The World according to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember, “appreciation is a holy thing—that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time.”
We have also enjoyed following our daughter and son-in-law’s lead regarding parenting strategies. When the grandchildren squabble, we talk about what happened and guide them to say they are sorry, to ask how they can help, and then to say something nice or to give a hug. These are the building blocks of loving one another since love is patient and kind; it’s not jealous, rude, or selfish and it doesn’t hold a grudge (I Cor. 13: 4-5). At the same time, we recognize that our grandchildren are “a heritage from the Lord,” a gift of grace given to us regardless of our human shortcomings. We are humbled by the gift and thankful that “God fills the gaps we cannot fill and blesses us and our children…” (and our grandchildren) “that we may receive fullness” (Patrick Mabilog, Wed. 22, June 2016, Christian Today).
Of course, there are many ways of grandparenting. And I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that much of what I know about grandparenting comes from my maternal grandmother. We were very close despite the fact that we only were together during summer vacations and sometimes at Christmas since we did not live near each other. We maintained contact through letters and cards. Nevertheless, much of what I learned about faith and gifts given came from her example.