I’m the kind of grandfather who likes to spend time on the floor playing with my grandkids. In fact, I love playing on the floor with my grandkids. So when we were in Michigan last month spending time with Katharine and Ryan, our daughter and son-in-law, getting to know Ada, our newest grandchild, I spent a lot of time on the floor with Lena, Ada’s two and a half year old sister.
We emptied Lena’s tub of wooden blocks and cars and a few crib toy discards onto the floor and played for hours, mostly about mommy and daddy blocks who were welcoming tiny baby blocks into their family. There was this discarded crib toy, a hanging toy with an elastic cord, something like the picture at the head of this post. Somehow Lena figured out how to shoot the toy across the room using the elastic hanger like a rubber band. And, yes, I think I may have helped her perfect her technique.
Fast forward three weeks as Lena is trying to shoot an old crib toy across the room by its elastic cord. Katharine recorded this dialogue:
Mama: That toy is not for shooting, Lena, it’s too hard and could hurt.
Lena: It is for shooting when Grandma and Grandpa are here!
Mama: No, it’s not for shooting ever.
Lena: Grandpa did it.
Oops. I am pretty sure that Katharine has not revoked my playtime privileges, but what a reminder of the role, for good or for bad, adults play in the lives of children. Wooden toys should not be shot across the room and grandfathers should not aid and abet such behavior, even when the perpetrator is the most delightful little blond granddaughter.
Grandparents are made for fun, for playing on the floor for hours on end or bringing the most creative craft projects in the whole world or sliding down the slide at the neighborhood park. And maybe even being mischievous once in a while.
Mostly, though, grandparents are made to come alongside godly parents as they teach their children what it means to be human and to be a faithful human. Grandparents say the loudest “We do” when the congregation promises the parents of a little one brought to the waters of baptism that they will be for them and with them as they raise their child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
I’m not big on the idea of substitute grandparents. Sometimes grandparents live close by and sometimes they live far away. Sometimes they have died or are just not there. Children have or don’t have the grandparents God has given them. But I am very big on the idea of adults of all ages being a part of a child’s life. I am very big on Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, and choir directors who have an important role for good in the lives of children.
On Sunday one of the young couples in our church will bring their infant daughter to the waters of baptism. The mom and the dad will promise to raise their child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and then the whole congregation will promise that they will be with and for those parents as they make the long and joyful journey of parenting. The baby’s grandparents will be there and may make their “We do” just a little louder than all the rest. But all of us will promise to be there for and with these parents. Pray to keep your promise.
Lena was exactly right. Grandpa did it. I shot that little crib toy across the room and helped Lena perfect her technique. I’m not too worried about it, but I really don’t want her to remember me as a grandfather behaving badly. I pray that Lena will remember me as someone who spent hours on the floor helping mommy and daddy wooden blocks welcome tiny baby wooden blocks into their family. I hope that she will remember Becky, who brings the best craft projects in the whole world, and me as grandparents who were with and for her parents as they taught her to be human and faithfully so.