By Corrie Lynn Player
Last week, I started musing about that wonderful stage of life that makes up for the infirmities of age — grandparenting. I said that grandparents can influence, for good, their grandchildren in very specific ways, the most important of which are the creation, implementation and continuance of traditions.
I’d like to share some ideas with you, as well as ask you to send me some of the ways you build relationships with your grandchildren.
Distance is a challenge to good grandmas, not an obstacle that can’t be overcome. Grandparents can do many things to keep a connection with their grandchildren. Little kids love to receive mail and phone calls.
Recording to a cassette tape is helpful for little ones who can’t read. You’ll probably have to supply a sturdy tape player/recorder, though, because your kids might not own one, unless it’s attached to a CD player and in that case, they probably wouldn’t let their 3-year-old play with. There are also recordable greeting cards available that don’t take as much effort on your part.
I’m lucky that some of my grandchildren live near me — five of them are right down the street. Their proximity means that I don’t have to work very hard to maintain my connections. Gary and I try to have one of them over for a special dinner as much as possible. They pick out the menu we cook and serve, in the words of some of the kids, “the old-fashioned way.”
We set the table, complete with a table cloth, centerpiece and napkins. With the older kids, we use the good china, sterling and crystal. With the younger kids, we use the matching plastic dishes and silverware we bought in Germany a few years ago. They get to pick their favorite color. We talk about manners and etiquette, but we mostly we talk about soccer, homework, being a friend and what it would be like to walk on the moon.
The children who live nearby like to come over for a few hours or for the night to get some individual attention. Although we occasionally invite them, they usually initiate the invitation. I get a call, “Grandma, can I come stay?” from a little boy or girl who wants to pull out all the Legos or work on a puzzle.
The kindergartner sets up exactly what he wants: “Now, I’m going to take a bath with all the toys, then you rub my feet while you tell me about the homestead. Then I will eat buttered toast, cookies and sugar milk.”
Grandchildren visiting from other states or countries make sure their parents schedule a cousin slumber party on our living room floor — an event that has involved dozens of boys and girls playing Monopoly Jr., tossing foam balls up the basement stairs or rolling miniature cars down the banister.
The longest-running tradition we have is Grandpa’s pancakes. These are staples for Sunday night dinner, which are part of a tradition that began with Daddy’s pancakes decades ago. When we were first married, I gave Gary a sourdough starter and cookbook, which turned into an enduring hobby that delights our family. Many of our sons and a couple of sons-in-law have taken starters from their dads. We frequently get calls of “When do I take out the start?” and “I think I’ve killed it; now what do I do?”
While some may be inconvenient and others pretty much thankless, my efforts to connect with my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren bring priceless rewards into my life. Sharing with and serving one another binds us together.
As the oldest of five, I had the perfect childhood for somebody who wanted to be a writer–a homestead at Kenny Lake, in the wilderness of Alaska. My parents and the crew Daddy had flown with during WWII planned to form a modern wagon train to traverse the Alcan highway. It opened to civilian traffic in May 1947. But when the time came to head north, they went alone, because everybody else chickened out….
Devoted to strengthening families, Corrie Lynne Player urges parents to rely on a Supreme Being and develop a strong sense of humor. She gives seminars and workshops across the country on topics such as family communication skills, understanding teenagers, and child behavior.
The Players ran a special needs foster home for more than 35 years; they focused on behaviorally challenged adolescents. Mrs. Player’s copyrighted Point System, a behavioral modification program, is featured in her columns and books.
Educated in child care and family-related issues, Mrs. Player has written for national magazines such as Family Circle, Parents, and Ladies Home Journal, as well as regional magazines and newspapers. Her published works include:
Loving Firmness: Successfully Raising Teenagers without Losing Your Mind
Dreams Do Come True (the biography of Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television)
The Everything Parents Guide to Raising Your Adopted Child