What your Grandchildren should know about you

To answer the question of what your grandchildren should know about you, one need only look at what you knew about your own grandparents…and then what you wish you knew about them. There are the family facts – place of birth, occupation, perhaps some geneaology; names of other family members, etc. Your grandchildren may know some of that about you already, and certainly when you die, they’ll learn the rest in an obituary.  But what’s really important?  What are the things you can give them know that will help them the rest of their lives? And how is it that those “things” came into your own life so that you are able to pass them on. 

I never met my mother’s father but I learned from family stories that he gave his life to save another. He was a country doctor in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. A frail man in his 70’s, he was hospitalized with pneumonia. Someone came to him with a message that an itinerant worker in a migrant camp was having a difficult labor. My grandfather bribed the nurse to give him his clothes; sat with the woman all night; and finally was able to safely deliver her baby at dawn. He then went home, lay down, and died. I wish he had kept a journal.  

I never met him but I’m proud of him and the telling of that story has had a lifelong influence on making me want to help others. I’m luckier than my grandfather because I’m alive and have one grandchild and another on the way. I want to tell them and hopefully show them that helping others makes life more worthwhile. 

We want them to know we love them and that our love is never conditional. While we may become upset with bad behavior at times, they can always count on us to love them. I also want them to know how much joy they’ve brought into our lives and how special we think they are. We want to show them that love with such constancy that they’ll know that loving is part of a grandparent’s role. We don’t want them to have any question about whether they should do the same with their own children and grandchildren. 

We want them to  think life is fun. We hope we model that there is something to laugh at in almost any situation and that the happiest of times are those when we’re playing. The simple games of hide and seek will give way to more sophisticated ones as they grow. I hope our grandson will remember that Grandma learned about Pokemon just to play with him. We want our grandchildren to know that education is the most fun – that learning makes life more enjoyable and more fulfilling. We’ve read to them and will listen to them read to us, celebrating the world that books create. 

We want to use our own history to show them that hardships can be overcome.  This is where the “walking through 10 feet of snow to school each day” stories come in.  While we didn’t have to do that, each of us has overcome adversity and in time, we want to tell them about it and how we did it so that they may use that knowledge to face their own life problems. We want them to know that admitting you made a mistake just means that you’re smarter today than you were yesterday. We want them to know that our grandparents never gave up – whether it was the hardships of war, economic depression, or illness, they kept on trying. We want them to know that we believe that’s the only way to live life. 

We want them to know that we’re their fans. If we praise them and spoil them (not too much) they’ll balance it with reality in time and know that grandparents are special in their love. We want them to know that we love and support their parents as well and that respect is the best virtue anyone can ever have. 

We want them to know that families are a team so we’ll help their family out and we’ll tell them about many relatives who helped us.  We will try to show them everyone in a family needs to work together and that no one benefits if members turn against each other. So, we want them to know that we’re loyal to each other and to them and their parents. 

We want to teach them to tell stories. Grandparents are often thought of as storytellers. They are the keepers of the family history and when grandparents tell those stories to grandchildren, they preserve their heritage. By example of telling our own and listening to theirs, we want them to know that we believe story telling – both factual and imaginative – is a valuable part of a family. 

If we teach our grandchildren these simple things about us and our ancestors, then in a few decades, they will be teaching them to their own children and grandchildren. I hope somewhere in the Great Beyond we’ll be listening and smiling.