Toorak Uniting Church

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Rev. Dr Christopher Page
Advent 2
8 December 2013

I have often quoted Peter Carnley, who was the archbishop of Perth and the Anglican primate of Australia. He said, "You love your children but you fall in love with your grandchildren." In part this is because it is a unique relationship and nobody can offer to a grandchild what a grandparent can. Someone said grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of their grandchildren.

Perhaps it begins with that first hand grasp when a newborn baby tries to put their hand around the finger of a grandparent. And of course as a child grows they need something stable to hang on to: a connection, a sense of their own past, and a hope for their own future. And that is what grandparents can give them.

There is an Italian proverb that says, "If nothing is going well, call your grandmother." I don’t know how it happens, but grandparents seem to be able to provide a kind of abundance to life. They seem able to give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humour, comfort, lessons in life. We should all have one person who knows how to bless us despite the evidence. Interestingly, when you remove the responsibility to raise the child, the grandparent and the grandchildren somehow become friends.

Someone else said that they felt Grandma always made you feel she had been waiting to see just you all day and now the day was complete. And strangely, as the author Victor Hugo wrote, "There are fathers who don’t always love their children. But there is seldom a grandfather who doesn’t adore his grandson."

But of course we know perhaps one of the reasons grandchildren get on well with grandparents is that when grandmother or grandfather comes through the door, discipline flies out the window. Maybe the white or silver hair gives you a heart of gold. Well, at least in the eyes of your grandchild’s mind. You may have heard this before, but there is a grain of truth in it, "The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy." ~Sam Levenson

But of course it is much more than that. As the Welsh proverb says, "Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild." And interestingly, you don’t have to be biologically related to a child to have the influence of a grandparent. A child needs a grandparent, someone who plays the role of a grandparent, helps a child grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world.

So I can turn it around the other way and suggest that often our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or any effort to change us. Others do try to change us: our parents, siblings, spouses, friends - and even our grown children. It was what led the American author Gore Vidal to say, "Never have children, (start with) grandchildren".

Of course it is not all beer and skittles. To become a grandparent you have to have age. I recall a story told to me in a previous church. The family had the grandparents visiting for three months from England. When the young granddaughter was alone in the car with her parents, she said to her parents, "It’s not easy having your ancestors living with you!" So one moment you're a mother or a father and the next you are all-wise and prehistoric. I suspect that grandchildren can believe that we grandparents are the oldest thing in the world. And I can tell you, after two or three hours with them, I can believe it too.

It is grandchildren and grandparents who connect the dots from generation to generation. The anthropologist Margaret Mead made the remarkable statement that everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being.

So what is so GRAND about being a grandparent?

So what is so GRAND about being a grandchild?

Let me finish with a quote from Lois Wyse: "A mother or a father becomes a true grandparent the day he or she stops noticing the terrible things their children do because they are so enchanted with the wonderful things their grandchildren do."

© Rev. Dr Christopher Page, 2013

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