Ellen Gable Hrkach shares 6 strategies for grandparents to live out the conviction that all humans, from conception to natural death, are unrepeatable gifts from God.
Human life is precious, because it is a gift from God whose love is infinite, and when God gives life, it is forever. (Saint John Paul II)
Our grandson was born nearly two years ago. I don’t remember ever being that excited for an impending birth (except for those of our children, but I was preoccupied during their births!) When we held our grandson – our baby’s baby – there was overwhelming joy and thanksgiving to God.
Still, none of us are perfect and we can struggle with our attitudes towards children and grandchildren. From an unplanned baby to a disabled child, to finding out the unborn child is the “wrong” sex, to conflicting philosophies on how to raise children, parenting – and grandparenting – can present its share of suffering. We can use Saint John Paul II’s prolife message to remember that each and every human being is an unrepeatable gift from God, whether he/she is planned or not, whether he/she is healthy or disabled and whether he/she is a boy or girl.
A few years ago, in speaking about her daughter who got pregnant at sixteen, a pro-choice celebrity spoke about how she tried to get her daughter to have an abortion (the daughter went on to have her baby). I know one grandmother who responded to the impending birth of her fourth grandchild in this way: “When are you going to stop having kids?” More than a few grandmothers have said, “Don’t expect me to babysit. I already raised my own kids. I’m not raising yours.”
These examples sound negative and perhaps our first instinct is to criticize. But all of us have anxieties about our children and grandchildren. We know a grandmother who said to her adult son with many children, “Every time you have a child, it just gives me one more thing to worry about.” Because of the way she was raised, this attitude was something that she could not control initially. As time went on, thankfully, she joyously loved each and every one of her grandchildren anyway, despite her initial comments.
My husband James and I are still newbies at grandparenthood, but we’ve discovered that there are things we can do to help us (and all grandparents) to focus our/their attitudes toward the truth that every human being from conception to natural death is an unrepeatable and unique eternal gift from God.
Even if our adult children are prolife, that doesn’t mean they will never need our support with regard to parenting and decision making. I know a young couple with many children whose in-laws continually criticize them for having such a big family. Conversely, another young couple has two children, but one of the grandparents is pressuring them to have more. Keep in mind that the decision to have a child is between husband, wife, and God. Grandparents, technically, do not have a say, and should always be supportive, despite parenting disagreements. Our adult children need to discern their parenting style/decisions like we did in the previous generation.
Generosity in Service
Admittedly, we like when we are called upon to babysit our grandson. We may have had something else planned, but we always try to be available if we are needed. Even so, it can be challenging trying to keep up with this energetic miniature human being, especially when we, as his caregivers, have had little sleep.
Theology of the Body
St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is a beautiful way to teach your adult children, in-laws and grandchildren about the beauty of human life. Through the Theology of the Body – the study of God through our bodies – we can help our grandchildren understand that everyone is a gift, and that God made us to love. Recommended reading: the TOB for Tots series from Pauline Books & Media, Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman, and Before You Were Born by Jennifer Davis and Laura Cornell.
Have Fun and Play
If you’re able, don’t be afraid to get down on the floor and play with your grandchildren! Some of the best moments come from being on their level and playing with their toys.
When we were babysitting one day, the power went out. Our grandson’s parents were on a mission to help him gain weight, and sometimes he would only eat if his favorite toddler show was on TV. With the electricity gone, we had to be creative. I sang nursery rhymes from my own childhood. James joined in and our grandson finally returned to eating his meal. Even now, when we start singing, he dances and sings with us.
Remind Them (Out Loud) They Are Loved
There was one particular night that our grandson (around 16 months old) would not go down to sleep. So after he fussed, I picked him up and rocked him in the rocking chair. I sang to him, told him how blessed he was. I told him I love him. Then I listed all the people who love him (not a small list if you count all the grandparents, the aunts, uncles and cousins). At one moment, he sat up, put his hands on both sides of my face and kissed me. Then he lay down against my chest and he finally fell asleep.
It’s not easy to be fully prolife with the culture of death surrounding us on all sides. Pray for yourselves, that you can always have a prolife attitude. Pray for your children and grandchildren that they will realize the blessing of life as it truly is: an unrepeatable, unique and eternal gift from God.
Copyright 2021 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Images (from top): Canva Pro; copyright Pavelvasenkov/Dreamstime, licensed by author
About the Author
Ellen and her husband, James, have been certified NFP teachers since 1984. She’s also an award-winning, bestselling author of twelve books, an editor, a publisher, and a self-publishing book coach. Her newest novel is Where Angels Pass. The mother of five adult sons and grandmother of two precious grandchildren, Ellen lives in Pakenham, Ontario with her husband. Contact her at Full Quiver Publishing.