GRANDPARENTING DURING THE PANDEMIC
For just a few days in April, the bluebells open in full bloom, transforming the forest ground into a sea of blue. For the past ten years, several of our grandchildren have joined us to walk, run, and skip through this living masterpiece. For a few hours, we’d explore the woods, pick delicate bouquets, and praise God for such glorious beauty! But not this year. Not even one grandchild joined us and though it’s a minor disappointment, it hurt our hearts.
Of all the trials and tribulations of this pandemic and time of social distancing, many grandparents' deepest longing (outside of being able to attend Mass) is for connection with their grandchildren. We have essentials delivered, but nothing is as necessary for our well-being as our grandchildren’s presence. Thankfully, we can meet virtually with adult children and catch virtual moments with the grands, but screen time only increases our desire to hold our babies, cuddle our toddlers, play games with our grade-school children, and to hike or dance with each of them.
But this longing, this desire, is more than just enjoying grandchildren to fulfill our needs. Christian grandparenting—passionate, purposeful, faithful—helps determine the future for our society, our church, our families, our faith. Pope Francis credits his grandmother for his faith: “I had the grace to grow up in a family where faith was lived in a simple and concrete way; but it was above all my grandmother, my father’s mother, who marked my path of faith.” Our Holy Father emphasizes our critical role: “How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society.”
Not only are grandparents important, they are perfect for passing on the faith. Grandparents love their grandchildren uniquely, freed from daily decision-making and expectations. They reveal the face of God through unconditional love. The oldest of our six children, Liz, forever and always, claims my mother, Lolo, as her best friend for life. “At Grandma Lolo’s, I could just be.” Liz felt fully loved, fully accepted, by Lolo—no matter what. Isn’t this unconditional acceptance one of the greatest gifts of grandparents? Isn’t this one way to make faith authentic to our grandchildren?
My husband and I are grandparents to ten and feel the ache of their absence. To connect, we ordered for each of them kites for flying in the spring breeze and puzzles for rainy days. All good, but more important, during this time of isolation, we can share our hearts with our grandchildren: write notes about our favorite Scripture passages, saints, or Feast Day; give each grandchild a reason we love him or her, in a particular way (you have such a kind heart, you’re so generous, you’re a protector like St. Michael the Archangel); write about one of our youthful adventures, share what we liked best when we were their age, or recall a memory with one of our grandparents.
In one day, I encountered three women, each who expressed, unsolicited, their deep sadness of not being with their grandchildren. One woman reported, “I just can’t stand it. Our grandchildren live a few blocks away and we can’t be with them.” Another lamented, “I have only been able to see my newborn grand baby through the window, and it’s killing me.” A virtual happy hour with a book club, opened with a simple, “How’s everyone doing?” Every grandmother sighed, “I miss my grandchildren!”
There is a longing in grandparents’ hearts, magnified through isolation. The bluebells stand proud for a brief time, and if you miss the window of opportunity, you’re forced to wait another year. But grandchildren can’t wait, and as grandparents, we are aware time is fleeting. Perhaps, if we change our viewpoint, this pandemic serves as a gift for discovering new ways of sharing our hearts, our faith, with our grandchildren. Now, that’s good news!
How will you share your heart with your grandchild?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To contact Mary about preaching or speaking to your community: www.mary pedersen.com
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.