While it’s true that I am an “Opa,” as we say in our house, neither Oma or I recall observing National Grandparents Day.
Or being the object of its observation – yet.
So, with that, I was surprised to learn that National Grandparents Day wasn’t just the concoction of greeting card companies. It actually has the force of presidential proclamation behind it! On August 3, 1978 Jimmy Carter issued Presidential Proclamation 4580 – the one commemorating the observance of National Grandparents Day!
I combed through the proclamation, looking for the “heart” of the day and found:
As Americans live longer, more and more families are enriched by their shared experiences with grandparents and great-grandparents.
“Shared experiences with … ”
There’s a lot to ponder in Carter’s proclamation about grandparents’ role in “shaping … destiny,” “passing on … values,” and “setting the moral tone.” And yet, a 2012 article in Psychology Today speaks to dynamics that have altered our perception of grandparenting over recent years.
I see where that article’s going; I, too, have been conflicted about this role especially since my single-parent daughter came to live with us just months before our granddaughter’s birth. At times, I’ve felt less a grandparent and more a parent in this arrangement. I feel guilty because one grandchild is getting the lion’s share of my attention. I’m stressed because I thought we’d be empty nesters by now. But, then I go to church and hear the words bestemor and bestefar.
Each time I hear those Norwegian words for grandmother and grandfather, I’m led to ponder how to be the best grandparent I can be. Shared experiences with. These words lift me from my frustrations and fears, urging me to just have fun. And to let those shared experiences flow both ways.
Plan to share experiences
Having an open-hearted attitude toward enjoying shared experiences with younger generations and being intentional about prioritizing and planning such experiences is something I believe our congregations can really help with. How many grandparents in our churches are apart from their grandkids and vice versa? I venture to say many.
This summer I came across a church that, instead of vacation Bible school, they hosted something they called Granny Camp. Can you imagine grandparents bringing in their hobbies to share with kids, cooking favorite recipes, and having show-and-tell moments that featured treasured memorabilia or grandpa’s restored car? Add to this sing-a-longs and storytelling and you have the makings of that’s something truly special for all ages!
While it’s great to have recognition for a National Grandparents Day, I’m convinced the church can have a lot of fun with hosting experiences throughout the year that can bring our generations together.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come. Psalm 71:18 NRSV
Interested in more ideas for increasing intergenerational shared experiences at your church? Check out our other blog posts about intergenerational ministry at your church.