By Stacey Monaco, Crosswalk.com
To paraphrase the words of an unknown wise woman, or perhaps a wise man, grandparents “…are a little bit teacher, a little bit parent, and a little bit best friend."
I have watched this generational legacy of love play out in my own childhood, as well as in the lives of my children. Delightfully, I can now say that my grandchildren are certainly some of my very most favorite people on the entire planet.
In my adolescent and teen years my grandparents lived next door. My grandfather, long since retired, was the hardest working man I knew. His military background had him up with the dawn caring for the yard of our homes, ensuring that the property was in tip-top shape, and feeding the tomcat he had adopted from the neighborhood streets.
Many a night, I sat at my grandparent’s dinner table eating the best homemade macaroni and cheese or chicken and dumplings known to man, followed by the sweet deliciousness of fresh tapioca pudding. While my parents worked long hours, my stomach was full, my clothes were clean, and I had the safety of knowing my grandparents were close by and available.
I don’t know how my parents would have fared in raising children and managing dual careers, without the faithful and consistent help of my grandmother and grandfather.
The practice of giving thanks and dignifying what is good and of much worth threads throughout scripture beginning with the first affirmations of God on the world and mankind, as he created an ordered and magnificent world, to Jesus raising his hands in gratitude over a meal.
The apostle Paul expresses gratitude to the early followers of Christ for their generosity, their faithfulness, their love for one another, and their love of Christ. To the Ephesians Paul writes, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16).
For my household and so many others, grandparents are the glue that binds a family together.
In the example of the early Christians, grandparents are often generous, faithful, loving, and exampling Christ to future generations. They are sincere in their desire to assist their children in building their family, and are delighted make an impact on their beloved grandchildren.
It is hard work, but grandparents understand the difficult task of caring for a family, and they choose over and again to not allow themselves to “grow weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9).
It is for these reasons, and so many more that grandparents are due great heaps of gratitude, both in the seasons when they are the glue holding our household together, and in the years where we may need to step in and show our appreciation by helping them.
Here are 3 meaningful ways that you can thank grandparents for their help.
1. A Delicious Way to Say Thank You
It has been said that cooking is love made visible. The resurrected Jesus warmed bread and fried up fish over a fire when Peter was at a low point, exhibiting grace and loving-kindness through satisfying a basic human need.
For nearly two years, I showed up early in the morning at the home of my youngest daughter to care for my granddaughter, while my daughter pursued an education. Most mornings, I found myself greeted by a freshly made smoothie, overnight oatmeal, or on occasion pancakes, fresh sourdough bread, or cookies that had been lovingly baked on the night before I came.
After a particularly long day, she often would come home and present me with a warm chai tea from our favorite local coffee house. These treats kept me nourished, body and soul.
My youngest son, who is now in his mid-twenties, was oftentimes helped after school by my mother-in-law. In her late 60’s she was chauffeuring my children, feeding them, and helping me with my two youngest.
As a grandmother, she was trustworthy, willing, and brimming with adoration for her grandchildren. Now in her 80’s, after a lifetime of nursing, raising children, and helping with grandchildren, she herself needs a helping hand.
My youngest son has recently taken it upon himself to have freshly made individual meals shipped to her doorstep. These meals represent love and gratitude in the form of a warm and filled heart and belly; a beautiful reciprocity of remembering to say thank you to this grandmother who helped him to grow and thrive.
From a fresh-cooked meal, to treats that come in the mail, or cookies made at the hands of a younger (or fully grown) grandchild, a thoughtfully timed gift of food is one that will be well received.
2. Saying Thank You With the Gift of Words
“How good is a timely word.” Proverbs 15:23b
Phone calls, text messages, handwritten letters and cards, or just the lovely simplicity of a face-to-face “Thank you so much,” accompanied by a tight hug, can often be the best thank you that can be given to a grandparent.
My husband’s office displays several works of art created by the preschool and elementary bunch, each adorned with short messages of love, or just the name of one of our grandchildren. Childlike simple words are enough. His face literally beams every time he receives one of these precious gifts.
As a parent who may see volumes of early artwork and attempts at putting the alphabet together into words parade through your home, don’t minimize the joy that a few words of thanks or a heart or “smiley” face inscribed onto one of these masterpieces might bring to the life of a grandparent.
An older grandchild, or adult parent of children might consider taking the time to write out the ways that a grandparent has helped them or impacted them in life. FaceTime and phone calls can also be very effective in letting the grandparents in your life know that they are remembered, and valued.
Alongside sharing thoughtful and considerate words, both written and spoken, with the grandparent generation, there is also the gift of conversation.
For busy households, this can be a very difficult gift to give, and yet possibly the one of greatest value. Consider intentionally finding time, perhaps around a dinner table with the grandchildren present, to ask questions about grandma or grandpa.
This is a rich opportunity for a legacy of faith to be shared, or for funny and heartwarming stories to be told about the family history.
3. Show Your Gratitude by Showing Up
From grandparents in their fifth decade, to those with a hundred candles on their cake there is undeniably no present like your presence.
Grandparents enjoy being invited to school and church events, and for those who might find it difficult to get out and about, it can be a welcome surprise to pop by with their favorite meal. Being involved in the comings and goings of their loved one’s can make a grandparent feel dignified for their contribution to the overall good of the family.
I have many memories of my children and I sharing hamburgers and fries with my mother-in-law who always was sure to set her dining table, or goodies from the local café with my mom, who loved to have us all sit amongst the greenery in her beautiful backyard in her retirement community.
Visiting the older generation of your family also gives you a creative springboard to find opportunities to give the gift of gratitude in other ways.
My children have helped their grandparents with technology, with cleaning out and organizing their garages and homes, and as young adults they have even come full circle, and instead of being driven places by their grandparents, they have become the drivers, picking them up and taking them to family events.
Staying present in the lives of those who have invested so very richly of their time, love, and perhaps finances, not only expresses gratitude, it dignifies their contribution with respect and true value.
The season that you, as a parent or grandchild, may most need assistance and aide from the grandparent generation, may also be the one in which you feel the least able to in some way repay them for their good deeds.
In these times, look for small ways like some of those mentioned above to simply say the words, “Thank you,” or ask them for a bit of advice, or share sweet moments over a cup of tea.
Just as they have committed themselves to be a consistent presence of blessing for you in these times of need, let your gratitude extend out to the season when you will no longer need them to assist you, and thank them by understanding the day will come when they will need you to not “grow weary in doing good” toward them.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/perfectlab
Stacey Monaco is the proud mother of six, plus two, and has five grand-one’s ranging from nine years old to two. She has been writing professionally on and off for over thirty-five years, and has a Masters in Christian Leadership from the Talbot School of Theology.