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"How A List From My Grand Daughter Became a Wonderful Reminder of What Truly Matters"

My grandchildren and I live about 1,000 miles apart. A face-to-face visit is a real treat and usually lasts several days. Recently, I went for a visit during their spring break. When I asked during a phone visit, "What shall we do while we're together?" The response was swift and decisive.

(photo of Ella and her Pringle Ringle in the summer of 2021)

I have often wondered what it would be like to live close enough to my grandchildren to get in my car and see them easily, pick them up from school, or go shopping on a Saturday morning. I have many friends who live this way. They are grateful and know they're blessed.

However, I am increasingly finding that many grandparents are in the same situation as me: visiting grandchildren requires much planning, pricey airline tickets, and the ability to leave home for several days. It is not easy, but there is nothing more worthwhile. Grandchildren are such a great gift!

While anticipating our traditional Spring Break visit with my grandchildren, I was having a phone visit with my Ella. She is a loquacious, gregarious, bouncy young girl with a personality that never stops—so much fun wrapped up in a bright-eyed face.

"What shall we do while we are together?" I asked. She instantly responded, "I'll send you a list." Just a note here: Ella is her mother all over again. You'd go far before meeting a more well-ordered and kind-hearted woman than my daughter-in-love. The fact that Ella wanted to send me a list was no surprise. It's how they roll at their house.

Less than thirty minutes later, I received a text. It contained a link to a short article entitled "10 Things To Do With Your Grandchildren". Clearly, Ella had decided not to reinvent the wheel. I opened the link and looked at the list, and I realized, once again, what truly matters when it comes to loving the children in your life.

Children worldwide need the same things from adults who love them. The underprivileged, the overindulged, the bright and sweet, the rebellious and rude, the shy, and the outgoing all need one simple thing from their grownups: time.

It has been said that children spell love T-I-M-E. It is the most valuable and important thing we can offer. We can make more money or purchase more gifts, but we can never, never create more time than we have been appointed. This is what makes it precious.

Here is the list that I received:

  1. Play board or card games together

  2. Bake or cook a recipe together.

  3. Watch a movie or favorite show together.

  4. Go for a walk or exercise together.

  5. Work on a craft project together.

  6. Have a picnic in the yard or park together.

  7. Look through old photos and talk about the memories. Together.

  8. Play an instrument or sing. TOGETHER.

  9. Visit a museum or art exhibit together.

  10. Go on a day trip to a nearby city or attraction. Together.

I arrived on a late evening flight into their town. The children were asleep, so I went to bed. I woke up ready to get started on our list. Over bowls of cereal, the children and I began to make a plan to tackle it. The planning was a lot of fun,

A note: Ella has a twin brother who counts on her as his social secretary. She is typically good at considering his preferences regarding activities and exceptionally skilled at talking him into doing what she wants when he is less than enthused. It is fun to watch. He is in charge of keeping us on the straight and narrow when following the rules and explaining the facts concerning anything we are doing. They divide the labor pretty well.

In deference to her brother, Ella's list included several activities he would enjoy. Hence, movie-watching became video game playing. I enjoyed that far more than I thought I would. Paul had to teach me and, to a lesser degree, Ella, how to play a funny game during which virtual pom-poms had to be eliminated with virtual paintballs. It's hard to explain. But it was fun.

We also included their dog in all outdoor activities. So, our walk and picnic (accomplished on day one) included the dog. That gave the children ample time to explain the dog's quirks and tricks to me. They explained basic and advanced dog care to me. They talked, and I listened. I also responded and asked follow-up questions.

Here's a tip: In addition to spending time with your young ones, encourage them to tell you what they know about things and then ask questions. Get to know the child. Children are people. They need affirmation that their thoughts and feelings are important. We accomplish this by listening when they speak.

The week went on, and it included a visit to a state park dedicated to historic missions, where we reflected on the meaning of a statue of Joseph holding baby Jesus. We went roller skating at their favorite rink, baked cookies, played endless games of Uno, made Anglican prayer beads, sang in the car, and watched the video their mom made when I met them for the first time in the NICU. I told them I am still overwhelmed with love when I see them. They liked that.

When it was time to leave, we had accomplished everything on the list and were proud of ourselves. A completed checklist is satisfying.

We are a task-driven family. See the hill, take the hill. If we have a list, we take it as a mandate from heaven, even when it is a list of fun things to do—you know the type.

On the flight home, I had to ask the attendant for extra napkins because I had forgotten my tissues. I always cry, at least part of the way home. It is wonderful to be with my children and grandchildren; leaving is never easy.

But it is part of our situation. We make our relationships work through sheer determination to make them so. We cherish each other shamelessly. We don't fear the vulnerability that comes from loving each other openly. We talk. We listen.

Through this deep connection, I can influence and shape my grandchildren, and in return, they influence and shape me. May the same be true for you and your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. It starts with a list. It continues with your presence.

So, now you have the list my granddaughter sent me. Use it well. Enjoy your children.

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