My father, Stanley Briscoe, arrived home one day carrying a small package. He unwrapped it and drew out a miniature model of a British double-decker bus. He said, “It looks to me as if we’re going to have a boy!” He never explained the connection between a model bus and the child being a male, but we all knew about his excitement concerning the imminent birth of his first grandchild.
But he never met his grandson. He died of a massive coronary in his early 50s, six weeks before our son, David, was born. The model double-decker bus is still one of my son’s prized possessions—a poignant reminder of the grandfather he never knew. Not only did my father not know his grandchild, he never knew his own father either, who also died very young. And, of course, that means I never knew my grandfather. But that was then and now is now!
These days, people live longer and stay healthier. Like me, people become grandparents of another generation, and, unlike me, many become great grandparents while still in their 70s. In fact, most first-time grandparents arrive at that exalted status in their late 40s or early 50s, which means many will fill that role for 30 or even 40 years.
It’s estimated that 75% of the U.S. population over 65 years of age are grandparents. That means a lot of grandparents doing a lot of grandparenting for a lot of grandchildren for a very long time! Grandparenting plays a huge part in modern culture.
I’m often asked, “Do you get to spend lots of time with your grandchildren?” When I hear that question I guess that the questioners are grandparents of very young children who are readily accessible. But when the years roll by it’s no longer a case of grandparents spending lots of time with their grandchildren. It’s a matter of the grandchildren finding time for the grandparents in their busy social calendars! This I know from experience as 11 of my 13 grandchildren are in their 20s and 30s.
The reality is that—surprise, surprise!—as I have aged, so too have my grandchildren. During the last 30 years, I have been a grandparent to infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, adolescents, teenagers, young adults, fiancées, young marrieds, and significant others. And in these past 30 years of grandparenting grandchildren through various stages and seasons, I have come to learn just how significant being a grandparent really is. Over the next few days, we’re going to explore together what it looks like for us to grandparent well and impact the next generation for the Kingdom of God.