What is the best inheritance grandparents can bestow on their grandchildren? It’s something that takes some planning and work, but leaves a tremendous legacy grandchildren will cherish.
[From the March/April 2014 issue of Discern.]
My grandparents didn’t leave me much of an inheritance; they didn’t have much to give. But every now and then I open a small plastic bag from a box in my office and examine a few rare coins—old silver dollars Grandpa used to give me, one every birthday.
The 1922 Peace Dollar, I found out recently, might be worth as much as $25 … but I’ll never sell it. The memories that coin evokes are worth far more than that—they are priceless. It’s amazing how many warm remembrances of a grandfather’s influence a little round piece of metal can evoke more than 50 years later.
All of my grandparents have been gone for decades, and they died without many physical goods to leave to their children and grandchildren. But they all left an inheritance of better things, possessions that I hope to pass on to my grandchildren.
The greatest inheritances
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” Solomon told his son (Proverbs 13:22). Interestingly, grandparenting is one of the few stations in life where the playing field is level. That is, the poor and prosperous alike can pass on the greatest inheritances of all—wisdom, love, encouragement, memories and lessons learned.
“Grandparents should play the same role in the family as an elder statesman can in the government of a country,” is the way British author Erin Pizzey describes it. “They have the experience and knowledge that comes from surviving a great many years of life’s battles and the wisdom, hopefully, to recognise how their grandchildren can benefit from this” (Geoff Dench, ed., Grandmothers: The Changing Culture, p. 6).
A grandparent’s influence
Grandparents are in a stage of life that a child’s parents have not yet experienced, and it enables them to contribute in unique ways to a child’s development. Life usually slows down a little more for grandparents, and they’ve had more time to process life itself. God intended it to be that way and instructs grandparents to fill a special role in influencing the young ones.
Moses talked to the Israelites about this: “Take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
While the primary influence on a child is to be the parents, this first- and third-generation relationship offers a different level of teaching that can greatly supplement—without supplanting—the parents’ responsibilities.
A beautiful picture
Genesis 50:23 paints a beautiful picture of grandparenting: “The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees.” Grandpa Joseph probably knew full well what columnist Doug Larson meant when he wrote, “Few things are more delightful than grandchildren fighting over your lap!”
It’s these family narratives and personal experiences you pass on—the teaching opportunities you create and the love you build in doing so—that they will treasure more than anything else.But Grandpa Joseph no doubt used these times as teachable moments to tell the family stories that fixed his grandchildren’s and great-grandchildren’s minds on their special heritage—past and future. As the old adage goes, grandchildren are a grandparent’s link to the future, and grandparents are the child’s link to the past. Grandparents should be the best family historians, connecting children to their roots and nurturing family traditions that are important for building a child’s sense of stability.
What can you pass on?
So what can you pass on to your grandchildren? As you would plan to leave a physical inheritance, you have to plan and prepare to pass on your experience, knowledge and wisdom. Consider these six core areas of child developmental needs as a starting place:
- God’s way of life.
- Character development.
- Emotional maturity.
- Relationship skills.
- Physical skills.
These life skills do not come naturally to a child—they are a product of the Proverbs 22:6 admonition, “Train up a child in the way he should go.” After four to six decades, grandparents have learned a lot about the way life should work best—the way they should go! Grandparents’ lives are treasure chests of knowledge in each of those areas, full of lessons learned that, when passed on effectively, mold and shape grandchildren.
The grandparent challenge is to compile the things you’ve gone through and learned in these six areas of life and then figure out age-appropriate ways to pass them on to your grandchildren. It’s these family narratives and personal experiences you pass on—the teaching opportunities you create and the love you build in doing so—that they will treasure more than anything else.
Grandparents who see their role as a responsibility and work to do it well will quickly realize the truth of Proverbs 17:6: “Children’s children are the crown of old men.” They will find great reward in the unique type of delight, fulfillment and companionship that grandchildren offer.
Bequeath to them a legacy—prepare for them the inheritance of a priceless relationship with you. Decades later, after they are grown and long after you are gone, they will continue to draw from your treasury everlasting memories of love, inspiration, direction, encouragement and wisdom.
For more, see articles in the section on “Aging.”