Raising Children of Peace
Edited by Farley and Betsy Jones
Chapter 3 Past, Present, and Future
Anchoring Children in the Past
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of sons is their fathers. Proverbs 17:6
We give honor to grandparents by encouraging children to listen to their voices of wisdom. Dennis Rainey 1
The importance of relationships with grandparents has been written about through the ages. The Old Testament relays the stories of grandfathers and grandmothers who fulfilled important roles as grandparents.
Much of the tradition in the Orient is based on the vertical ethic of respect for elders. When my husband and I traveled to Japan in 1970 we were struck by this. Often we would see elderly men and women walking in a dignified way with a towel draped over their arm on their way to a public bath. Onlookers would greet each one with a respectful bow and offer a gesture of greeting as they passed.
Recently our eldest son was married to a Korean. Our new daughter-in-law visited our parents and, wearing a traditional Korean dress, offered a full bow to each of them. Both my father-in-law and my mother were each deeply moved by this gesture of respect. My father-in-law, affectionately referred to as "Papa Jones"; with tears in his eyes exclaimed, "I'm overwhelmed!"
Wilson, in his book True Family Values 2, describes the necessity for respect for three generations in a true family. Grandparents are respected as bearers of past tradition. "Having pioneered the way of love and having attained true parenthood, they are a treasure store of wisdom and experience" (p. 35) Parents are respected as leaders of the family with love in the present, and children represent the future. They are preparing to establish a true family.
In a culture where families are often mobile and living apart from an extended family, it is important to make the effort to get together across miles so that the children and grandparents can know and love each other. Taffel 3 in his book Parenting by Heart describes the importance of a relationship with grandparents as a stabilizing factor and connection to past generations.
I'm stunned by how many people have never visited their parents' graves or explained the family's roots to their children. That is undoubtedly one of the reasons so many people don't feel anchored in life-they are cut off from past generations. (p. 276)
Wilson calls grandparents' love "a valuable supplement to parents' love." He goes on to say
Indeed, studies have shown that in the inner cities where so many children living in single-parent families are deprived of balanced parental love, the presence of grandparents is the most important factor in determining whether the child will become successful in life and avoid falling into the abyss of drugs and crime.
Children can find a sense of feeling anchored in life through having a relationship with grandparents. Our family moved several times and my daughter often stated that her grandparents' house was a source of comfort and belonging to her.
Facilitating the Relationship with Grandparents
There were things we did as parents to facilitate our children's relationship with their grandparents. For example,
1. We utilized holidays to get together. We have many memories of traveling to their house or of their coming to our house, cooking special meals and just being together and enjoying each other.
2. Sometimes we consulted with our parents if we were having a problem with a particular child. We could sense that in comparison with them, we looked at the children with a more critical eye and that we needed to inherit more of the grandparents' unconditional viewpoint. Through the viewpoint of my parents, I could inherit a more empathetic viewpoint toward my children. The distance of a generation and their depth of heart made a difference. We as parents can be so easily threatened by the misbehavior of our children because it challenges our parental authority.
3. Usually once a year we took the children's grandparents with us to the ocean to a rented house or to my sister's house in Maine. So although we lived apart we could experience the joy of all three generations living together -- even for a week.
4. We modeled a relationship and called and wrote cards and exchanged gifts on their birthdays and holidays.
5. One or two of our children at a time spent a week with their grandparents during vacations when they were young. They had fun eating, doing chores and having special times together.
Perceptions of Grandchildren
At a meeting I attended in Washington DC, Barbara Bush reflected on the role of grandparents, commenting that they often can help nurture their grandchildren when parents may have less time to do so. She shared this delightful perception of one child. It is entitled "What Is a Grandmother?"
A grandmother is a lady who has no little children of her own. She likes other people's. A grandfather is a man grandmother.
Grandmothers don't have to do anything except be there. They are old so they shouldn't play hard or run. It is enough if they drive us to the market and have a lot of dimes ready. When they take us for walks, they slow down past things like pretty leaves and caterpillars. They never say "Hurry Up".
Usually grandmothers are fat, but not too fat to tie your shoes. They wear glasses and funny underwear. They can take their teeth and gums out. Grandmothers don't have to be smart, only answer questions like 'Why isn't God married?' and 'How come dogs chase cats?' When they read to us they don't skip or mind if we ask for the same story over again.
Everybody should try to have a grandmother, especially if you don't have television, because they are the only grown-ups who have time. 4
When I recently asked my mother about her experiences as grandmother, she reminisced about many things. Several years ago our children made a very large Christmas card for my parents which my mother still treasures. The following are their inscriptions on the card. They reflect the children's perceptions and relationship with their grandparents.
Dear Grandpa and Grandma, I am sorry all we have to show you is this paper because it does not express truly how much we love you. I am truly a lucky and blessed person to have you, Grandpa and Grandma. Rather than words we want to show you our love by making you the proudest grandparents in the world. Thank you again. Love, Matthew (your first grandchild)
Dear Grandpa and Grandma, "Merry Christmas" does not say enough to two such wonderful grandparents. I really want to thank you for the never ceasing love you pour upon me. I could never ask for greater or more loving grandparents. I can only hope that we can make you as proud as you deserve to be. I really hope that this year brings many blessings for you. I wish I could visit you more but please remember that all your grandchildren are with you always in your heart. May God bless you always. Love, gratitude Cara
Dear Grandma and Grandpa, Thanks for being the best grandparents a kid could ever have. You have blessed our lives more than you know and we are in deep debt to you. I really hope that we may return all the love that you have shared by making you the proudest grandparents in the world. l hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Love, Harvet
Dear Grandma and Grandpa, Thank you so very much for always being such awesome grandparents. You have been so patient and constantly love me. I hope that 1 may give you everything you ever hoped for from a grandson. Thank you for raising Mom so well, to be the awesome mother she is to us. In parenthood, she is following your footsteps. Good luck in the New Year and thank you for all the love given us. Love, Bow
Dear Grandma and Grandpa, Thank you for the love and care you have given. I love you both very much and hope we see you often. Love, Farley O
Our son Bow wrote an essay for school. It was to be a character sketch and he chose to write about his grandmother.
Although she fits perfectly into the typical elderly woman mold, there is one extraordinary feature about her that makes it impossible for her to be classified into a stereotype. Her wild blue eyes that are simply on fire with the pleasure of being alive. Every time I see my grandmother again after a period of time, her eyes just light up with a fiery brilliance radiating her unconditional love for us. The blueness drowns out any aged and worn appearance she might have to her, making her much more than just an older person, they make her Grandma.
What Grandparents Feel and Do
Grandparents' love described by one grandfather is the closest to God's feelings. He said, "It's very special" The following is an essay written by Mayre O'Neill, my mother, about her experience as a grandmother and what she and my father did for their grandchildren.
My husband and I really enjoyed music. Since his passing I continue to listen to certain music, almost totally devoid of advertisement. Certain melodies can flood my thoughts with many enjoyable memories.
We especially enjoyed having our five grandchildren (four boys and one girl) visit us. They live in New York and we have always lived in Massachusetts. Therefore, frequent visits were not always possible. My husband, their grandfather, loved each of them impartially. He introduced them to oatmeal for breakfast which he had prepared for them. In warmer weather the children chose the menu, be it pancakes, waffles, eggs -- all prepared by him.
In the garden he set up badminton nets, croquet, swings, and for their pleasure. He was always willing and ready to teach them certain simple skills, either in sports or creative arts.
A few years ago their mother had to go out of town for a few days and I volunteered to "baby sit" the children. The morning of the first day of my visit 1 told them that my new name was the Dragon Lady and that she was about to announce the establishment of new rules of conduct. It was explained to them that infractions of the rules would result in certain demerits and appropriate limit setting. These rules necessitated a complete change in conduct, including such admonitions as hanging up outer garments, do more draping sweaters and jackets on chairs. Clothes were to be hung up properly, individual bedrooms were to be tidy at all times, towels were to be placed in the laundry basket or neatly folded for text use. The dining room table was no lodger to be the repository of books, soiled dishes, and other odds and ends. My eagle eyes would catch any infractions of the rules. Ire spite of these so-called new rules, there were to ill feelings, the children accepted them, with the resultant atmosphere very loving and pleasant. The children would tease each other with any possible infractions of the Dragon Lady's rules.
The time for me to leave arrived too soon. There was much kidding among the Dragon Lady and the children. Just prior to my departure I received from the children a special card composed by them. One side contained admonitions made by me according to each child's ideas. The other side continued notes and ink drawings made by each child, including a drawing of the Dragon Lady, expressing their love and sentiments. I was deeply touched by the sentiments they expressed and have kept this card with the hope that others will also enjoy the sentiments expressed therein.
Aside from our grandchildren, we always welcomed into our home, the friends of our children. With our grandchildren, very early on I started an individual folder for each child, bearing the name of the child, plus a separate folder for joint communications. That practice was started many years ago when the children were very young as evidenced by their spelling, penmanship, choice of words and many times contained juvenile drawings to illustrate a point. As the years progressed simple notes became very interesting and humorous letters containing information about their interest, activities -- including sports future plans, etc. Each of these concluded with an individual statement of their love for my husband and me. If I were addressed as the Dragon Lady, it was done as an expression of their love.
I believe that readers of my generation will understand what I am now going to relate to you. I grew up in a large family. We experienced love and interest in each other's ideas and/or personal affairs. That love arid interest were never verbalized, but the feelings were very real. Our parents were very good and kind people but they too never verbalized their feelings. I especially think of my mother who showed each of us her love in so many ways, large and small. Apparently when our parents were young children and later adults, it was deemed embarrassing to verbally express your love or bestow a kiss. Therefore, when that group became parents, children were loved arid were taught principles of behavior. I can look back with regret that 1 did not act on a sudden impulse and kiss both of my parents. We kissed each other goodbye on rare occasions when we would be away from home for a while.
When I got married, my husband and I showed our love for each other by kissing hello and goodbye and on special holidays, birthdays, whenever a particular occasion arose. When our children came along it was a natural happening to kiss Mum and Dad goodnight, goodbye, to express thanks or kiss to show love and admiration. It has been arid continues to be thrilling in every sense of the word to see my grandchildren, very tall young adults, spontaneously kiss their parents and close relatives hello or goodbye. This is done in a very natural manner, totally devoid of any sense of embarrassment. I feel sorry for other grandparents who have never known or experienced the love, affection, and thoughtfulness that my husband and 1 received, arid I continue to receive, from my kind and loving grandchildren.
I have been blessed with two loving daughters, a son-in-law, and five admirable grandchildren. It does not have to be proved that children learn by example. The majority of today's children will ultimately become parents and/or grandparents. Let us then endeavor and truly hope they will create homes as parents or grandparents that embody love and happiness.
Grandparents are in the unique position to empathize with the parents' position as well as with the child's. With humor and the wisdom of many years experience, they can often "join" the child where they are and lead them to a point of cooperation with parental standards and beliefs. Indeed, they can be a sort of "heavenly bridge" between the past and the present.
The value of relationship and respect for three generations can lead to patterns of loving and setting limits based on mutual respect, versus humiliation. By this sense of connectedness to the past and present, children can go forward, confident of where they belong, to pioneer new levels of love in their own families.
1. Dennis Rainey, A Call to Family Reformation: Restoring the Soul of America One Home at a Tune. Little Rock: Arkansas Family Life, 1996.
2. Joong Hyun Pak and Andrew Wilson, True Family Values, New York: HSA-UWC, 1996.
3. Ron Taffel, Parenting by Heart, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1991.
4. St. Andrews Society Newsletter, Spring 1979, Washington, DC. as quoted by Barbara Bush.
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