One of the many blessings of retirement is the opportunity to help out my son and daughter-in-law. Now that I’m retired, whenever they need a Nana to “stand in the gap” they know they can call. If my schedule is open, I’m there!
As working parents and with all of the transitions associated with virtual learning during the pandemic, it has been a challenging year. They are working parents that sometimes need some help driving or picking up kids. With a huge network in their neighborhood, they have lots of help, but sometimes it is nice to give their friends’ parents a break.
For me, the month of June feels like we are in an endless summer of travel, hiking adventures, golf trips, and reconnecting with friends and family. But in between trips I have been able to schedule a few days to spend at their house.
Last week, I was able to walk them to school, pick them up and take them out to their favorite lunch place on a rainy day. On another day I drove to soccer practice and watched my grandson do some drills. For some of the time, I was laying on the grass looking up at the sky with my granddaughter as the warm day cooled and the sun was setting. During the 90 minutes we were watching him, she and I had some really important life conversations. During the day, in between all the coming and going while their parents worked, I was able to clean the kitchen, throw in some laundry and get dinner started. Tucking them in at night, saying prayers, and singing songs is something I have missed in the years between when my own children grew up. While I was tired at the end of the day I felt like I was making an important contribution to their lives.
I had a grateful moment on the way to class a few days ago. They both held my hand and asked me to tell them stories about the past. Lately, they have been asking for stories of my childhood. Sometimes they want to hear funny stories about their dad when he was a little boy. We’ve even talked about wars, the civil rights movement, and our country’s history! It all starts with a question they have and then I try to answer accurately and honestly. This has even caused us to look things up, research online, or look for movies and stories that supports some answers to their questions or even gives a different perspective. They are extremely fascinated by the scores of images that I can almost immediately find on my phone.
As I walked back to their home with their pandemic puppy Millie, I took a deep breath and praised God for the precious gift of time. I am so grateful for uninterrupted, intentional conversations with their trusting eyes looking up at me and saying, “Tell us another story, Nana!”
At church last week, our pastor shared about how important it is that all of us prepare the next generation. In fact, he preached an entire sermon on this topic! The scripture was from Psalm 78:4-6. It says in part:
“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,”
I was challenged by this and lately have been adding a spiritual component or a moral message to my stories each time we are together. My stories now always have a purpose and a lesson. They keep asking so many questions! Sometimes it can be exhausting but I know that now is the window of time that I get to speak truth into their little lives. In a few short years, they’ll be forming their own beliefs and choosing who they will serve and what they will believe.
I’ve been remembering the book I read when my kids were young, “The Five Love Languages for Children” by Dr. Gary Chapman.
I believe that both of my grandkids give and receive love the best through quality time and words of affirmation. My grandson though especially appreciates physical touch. His hugs are the best! I’m treasuring these moments with them. I’m continually mindful of preparing for that last time I’ll get to do this. I know they won’t always want to hold my hand and ask for a story on the way to school. In just a few short years they’ll be driving themselves!
So here is a challenge: As a retiree, even if you don’t yet have grandkids, I think the extra time you now have could be well spent preparing the next generation. Maybe there are kids in your neighborhood or your church that might need your kindness and friendship. There could be nieces, nephews, or young people that could learn from you. Take a few minutes to think about ways you could find to share your wisdom and experience.
In fact, after that sermon, I began looking for ways to prepare the next generation in my own neighborhood. I imagine that was the purpose of the message that day, because for a week in July, I’ll be a small group leader for Vacation Bible School. Even now I’m planning for Nana Camp at the end of the month when we’ll have all four grandkids at once!
I’m so glad I was blessed to be able to stop working and retire so that I can experience these everyday moments. I know the window will close before I’m ready for it.