The Mindful Grandparent

News of the pending arrival of my first two grandchildren — yes, both my sons called the same weekend with their news — came with mixed emotions. Ecstasy was followed quickly with dismay: we had applied to join the Peace Corps and were in the midst of fairly major changes in preparation.

Ecstasy won out, of course. We put our Peace Corps application on hold for a year and settled into a life unexpected. Eight and a half months later they were born, two days apart.

Here they are on their first birthday, with their Kazakh winter hats. Isabella on the left; Elijah on the right.
photo credit: new uncle and proud papa, David Ackerman

That was 18 years ago.

When I began to write this, I was visiting Ohio for two high school graduation ceremonies and parties.

Here’s Bella (aka Isabella) with my mom and me.
Here we are again with Eli (aka Elijah).

That same month (May, 2022), my social media friend and colleague, Shirley Showalter, came out with a new book. Co-authored with Marilyn McEntyre, The Mindful Grandparent describes “The Art of Loving our Children’s Children.”

I’ll steal a snippet from the book’s marketing materials:

Making memories and fostering relationships with our grandchildren in the midst of a fast-moving culture isn’t easy, and a legacy that lasts isn’t crafted overnight. So how do we as grandparents cultivate strong, meaningful relationships with the children we adore?

I admire Shirley, more than I can say, but I’m afraid to read this book of hers.

In between leaving for Peace Corps (2004) and today (2023), each family had one more child, giving me five grandchildren, now ages 16 to 23.

I’m afraid if I read this book I’ll discover how much I’ve missed by living so far from them since we returned from our Peace Corps stint. You all know we weren’t expecting to be up here sans grandchildren. I told that story in Finding Our Way To Vermont.

Still, we are here; that’s the reality. We are twelve hours from one set of grandkids; and four additional hours to get to the other. Pre-CoVid, I’d make it out to Ohio twice a year, autumn and spring. They’ve visited in the summers, of course; and each family has had at least one winter vacation with us. But it’s getting harder for them to make the trek: the kids got older and their interests spread out beyond family.

I’m really curious about Shirley’s new book. It’s gotten great reviews, which does not surprise me at all. And I want to support her.

So, I turn to you, my readers.

Have you read Shirley’s book yet? I imagine many of you have. Can you advise me? If you’ve not yet read it, here’s that link again. Help me overcome my fear, set me straight, challenge me to step up and be brave.

Is there still time? Or have I missed too much already?

How have you built relationships with your grandchildren?

10 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    You’re probably not surprised that I have read Shirley’s fine book, a 5* book in my opinion. Here’s my review:

    Of course, I can’t speak for Shirley or her co-author, but I don’t think they’d want you to feel guilt while reading their book. I know I wouldn’t. And the authors do address geographical distance from grand-children; one chapter especially discusses this topic, Ch. 28, “A Candle in the Darkness.” There are probably others.

    You have listed some good options: Yes, be brave. And yes, there’s still time!
    By the way, the 3 women in the graduation photo smile the same way. I bet they’re related. 😀

    Great post, Janet!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Colleen and I Make Valentine CookiesMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Guilt? No, that’s not my fear, Marian. Sadness, grief over lost opportunities, is my fear. But as Frank says, there’s the next generation to consider.

      And, I’m aware of how easy it is to fear what we might discover when we look back. I encourage clients every week to mine those memories: see what lessons we can pull out that might help us navigate the road ahead. It’s a good lesson for me as well.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How to peel a hardboiled eggMy Profile

  2. Frank V. Moore
    | Reply

    I have 4 adult grandchildren, 2 grandsons & 2 granddaughters, and a great grandson. Shirley’s book may be too late for my grandpa renting, but perhaps I won’t repeat my mistakes with my great grandson.

  3. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    We will always have some regrets but I think it is better to cherish the memories. I now live across the ocean from my 4 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. I have never been able to spend quantity time with them but I do spend quality time with them when I do see them. We have wonderful memories. I love the picture of their first birthdays, so cute. They have both grown up to be lovely young adults. You must be proud. Shirley’s book sounds wonderful.
    Darlene Foster recently posted…Growing Bookworms – Meet children’s book author, Darlene Foster, and learn about her Amanda travel series and a review #childrensfiction #bookreview #growingbookwormsMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Darlene. Quality time over quantity, I like that emphasis, yes. Good reminder. Shirley’s book has generated excellent reviews; we know it’s a good one. Why aren’t we reading it? I’m remembering my old definition of courage: feel the fear and do it anyway. Hmmmm.
      Janet Givens recently posted…How to peel a hardboiled eggMy Profile

  4. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Hi Janet! As you know, I got a somewhat late start on parenthood, so I’m a tad behind the curve when it comes to grand-parenting. I did get to observe my girls’ interactions with multiple sets of grandparents and step grandparents through their years growing up, however, and yes–there was much opportunity lost, particularly on my parents’ part. But young people benefit from relationships with grandparents, particularly ones with interesting ideas and perspectives and cool life experiences such as yours, even when they’re young adults. I haven’t read Shirley’s book, but it sounds great, and I might suggest reading it with an eye not toward the past, but the future. Best, T

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      “Multiple sets of grandparents and step grandparents…”. Hi Tim. One of my challenges has always been the multiple sets that my grandchildren had. Twelve each, when they were first born, and it’s not that much lower 19 years later.

      I was my sole grandparent’s only grandchild — that was my grand-parenting model. Since sharing has never been my strong suit, I’m imagining, now, that perhaps it was healthier that we only visited a few times a year — and the other grands, for the most part, cleared out.

      Hmmm, thanks; you got me thinking anew, as you generally do.
      Janet Givens recently posted…The Mindful GrandparentMy Profile

      • Tim Fearnside
        | Reply

        I unfortunately lost all four of my grandparents at an early age. Two, I don’t remember at all. One, my paternal grandpa, I recall meeting only once, when I was probably around 6 or so. He lived in Jefferson City, MO, and my Mom, siblings, and I took a slow-moving, un-air conditioned passenger train from Ohio to spend some time with him. The fourth lived nearby, but also died relatively young, probably when I was around 8 or 9, and I never was all that close to her. I wish I had gotten to know all of them better.

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          The train trip visit — which could have been wonderfully exciting for a young boy — sounds ghastly. I wonder what model you will adopt in your grandparent years, when they arrive. Woody also had little grandparent contact growing up. The one he does remember held to the “children should be seen and not heard” philosophy. My kids were adults when he first met them. But their children! As I think of it, he’s always talked to them like little adults. I think they appreciated that.

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