My hubby and I are on the second leg of our “apostolic ministry” connecting with our young grandchildren and our children who both live abroad with their young families. From three months in Germany where our daughter-in-love just gave birth, we are now with our daughter’s family in the US with her three kids. There are many things I learn and certain principles we have applied in our being parents to married children and in grandparenting that help us in these visits.
First, we made a decision to love our children’s spouses as our own children. We see a biblical example of loving one’s in-laws as one’s own in the story of Ruth and Naomi. Naomi lost her two sons but loved and did what was best for her two daughters-in-law. She must have loved them so well that Ruth, instead of staying in Moab with her people, chose to live with and take care of Naomi in Israel. There, Naomi helped Ruth get married again with another kind and responsible relative. Since we did not know the spouses that much since our children got married, these visits afford us the opportunity to know them at a deeper level. Living with them months at a time, we have come to truly love, appreciate, and fully embrace them as family and they, us. We hope to maintain good close relationships with our in-laws (or we prefer “in-loves”) through the years.
Second, we come alongside not as parents but as equals, respecting their choices and decisions and ways of parenting especially when it is different from ours. I decided not to say anything negative about their spouses to our children and instead speak to our children about their own part in improving or strengthening their relationships. If we have concerns regarding their spouses, we make it a matter of prayer. We wanted to strengthen their marital relationships, not take sides nor put a wedge between them. We also try implement their rules and routines especially when it comes to their children and not negate or counteract their authority.
Third, we come ready to serve them. Living with no househelp like we do in the Philippines, we help with babysitting, cooking, doing chores and errands to come alongside these young families. In our last trip, we helped our daughter’s family pack, move, and resettle in another state. My husband also built shoe and toy cabinets, a lego table and climbing wall for the kids in their new home to keep them occupied during the winter months. This trip, my son-in-love has embarked on several home improvement projects since my husband is around to help him and do maintenance around the house and garden. Our presence also allows our daughter and her husband to go out on dates, and even go join her husband on a work trip this November.
Fourth, we come prepared to learn from them. I learn from my daughter in the way she has organized everything in her pantry, refrigerator, kitchen, and her clothes cabinets. I am amazed at how she has done so well in maintaining a clean and orderly home despite having to take care of 3 young children, volunteering in her children’s school, training and teaching children in a community Bible study, and teaching Sunday school every Sunday in church where her husband preaches. We appreciate the way she and her husband are raising their children who are generally obedient, ask perceptive questions, interact well, and are developing their unique talents with opportunities given them. That is why I have been encouraging my daughter to co-write a book with me on parenting young children, but so far she has not had time to sit down on it! We also have come to appreciate my son’s learning to play drums and become so good at it (even though he was a guitar player before in Davao CCF) to enhance the music team’s worship in his church. I learn some Peruvian dishes from my ‘balae” as I watch her cook when she visits the same time as us. I also learn from my grandchildren just being around them, playing and interacting with them! They ask good questions that make me think, they get lost in the wonder of books and imagination, they make me play and laugh a lot, they make me want to stay healthy and strong to see them grow, they show me the discipline created by routine, they model protectiveness and coming together when one is threatened by outsiders, they fight for their wants but forgive easily, they love affectionately.
I thank God for this privilege and for making times like these possible!