God’s Guide for Grandparents
By Susan M. Erschen
As soon as I read the first chapter of God’s Guide for Grandparents by Susan M. Erschen, I knew this was not going to be an easy book to review. That is, it is not a book that I could breeze through while jotting a few nice things to say. This grandparenting book is not a collection of platitudes. It is a book about virtues, some of which—(sigh)—I haven’t perfected. This book required me to reflect, while at the same time giving me reading pleasure.
It might seem odd that the author begins with the virtue of obedience as the subject of the first chapter. Except for speed limits and tax laws, why should obedience concern grandparents? Because our adult children–the parents of our grandchildren–says the author, make their own rules for their children. And, says Erschen, “we must respect the rules they set down. Every young family has the right to set its own rules, just as we once set the rules for our own families. Although the new parents make the rules, they still want our support. . . Let us give them that approval and support,” even when we think we know better. Referring to the commandment to “honor your father and your mother,” Erschen reminds us that we must do more than tell our grandchildren to do what their mommy and daddy tell them. We, too, must do what their parents wish if we are to pass along faith in the God Who gave us the commandments. Obeying the fourth commandment is the only way to share in the virtue of obedience.
Perhaps I should have caught on by the second chapter on acceptance, but it also surprised me. The author starts talking, not about accepting grandchildren, but about learning acceptance from our grandchildren. “Unfortunately, we rarely make use of the opportunity to learn from children. Instead, we tend to teach them our own bad habits.” (Who, me?) Erschen tells a story of her granddaughter’s ready acceptance of a big change and follows with a story about her own growth in acceptance. She encourages us to first imagine Jesus playing with our grandchildren. When we are used to seeing Jesus with our grandchildren, we can try imagining Him with someone we might be judging. Without waiting to imagine Jesus with any of my grandchildren, I went straight to imagining Him with a particular person by whom I felt irritated. What a change in perspective!
Over and over, God’s Guide for Grandparents challenged and delighted me. Rather than revealing every virtue I lack, let’s move on to some of the delights.
I was pleased to read about sharing an awe of nature with grandchildren, for that comes naturally to me. Erschen’s telling of the first encounter between her grandson and her father brought back memories of the weekend my four-year-old granddaughter met my mother, who was virtually mute due to Alzheimer’s disease, yet spoke to her great-granddaughter. I was delighted to read a reference to a sampler I used to see in my sister’s home with two additional lines:
Quiet down cobwebs
Dust go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby
And babies don’t keep
Grandparents can offer peace by cuddling children even when parents are too harried to do so.
There are so many enjoyable anecdotes in this book. The story of the author’s granddaughter’s bedtime after her first day of school, when she wailed, “But tomorrow I have school again, and now I will never have enough time to do the stuff I want” takes me all the way back to my own childhood. Her husband’s longing for their traveling grandchildren resonates with my heart. There are stories about tea parties and a pool party, grandparent names, stacking blocks, and a funeral, as well as stories about saints and from Scripture. Every story opens the reader’s heart to the lesson it exemplifies before the author develops it.
These sixteen chapters featuring sixteen virtues can easily be read in a few minutes a day over the course of two weeks or so. There is enough food for thought to spend a week on each virtue. At the end of every chapter/virtue are four reflection questions worth thinking about during the day or week, or perhaps writing about in a journal. Following the questions is “A Grandparents Prayer,” tailored to the chapter and brief enough for daily repetition.
A chapter on courage is halfway through the book, yet its lessons seem a fitting way to sum up God’s Guide for Grandparents. Erschen says that for today’s grandparents to demonstrate courage, three things are required:
- We need the courage to draw closer to Jesus than we ever have before in our lives.
- We need the courage to do whatever God may ask of us as we become one of his closer followers.
- We need the courage to invite our grandchildren to follow us on this journey.
Once we are truly able to courageously move closer to God in our own lives and follow his teachings more fully, then we will be able to help our grandchildren gain the same courage in their lives.
About the reviewer
Mary Ann Paulukonis has six grandchildren with whom she shares her love of God, nature, and more.