Mimi's Place: Learning the Rules of Being a Grandmother

grandmother baking

I love being a grandmother! I will never forget the phone call from our son and daughter-in-law telling us that we were not only going to be grandparents for the first time, but that we were going to be the grandparents of twins! I screamed, danced, hollered, and danced some more, to the point that I got light-headed and had to sit down. Seriously! And I have been a crazy, over-the-top Mimi ever since! We now have six grandchildren, and I can honestly say that the birth of each child has been so unique and so special. My husband and I strongly feel the responsibility of being grandparents and constantly seek God's wisdom about our role in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

We are learning. Learning what to do. Learning what not to do.

Learning to respect the parenting style and guidelines of our children even when they differ from our own. That is a tough one, but when our children married, I promised them that I would only give advice that was requested. I can earnestly say that I have done that most of the time. Of course, I have no tongue left due to constantly biting it! I am continually asking myself and the Father what my role is as a grandmother. Let me share some things I have learned - so far.

I need to pray for our grandchildren.

Mathew 19:13-14 "Then people brought little children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'"

Praying for grandchildren is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. And letting them know that we are praying for them is very important to their spiritual growth. When our grandson Justus cut his leg, I cleaned the cut, put a bandage on it, and prayed for Jesus to heal it. The next time I saw Justus, he said, "Mimi, He did it! He did it!" Honestly, I had forgotten about the cut and my prayer for Jesus to make it well, but Justus hadn't. He smiled and pointed to his leg, where the cut was barely visible. "See? God made it all better! He answered your prayer!" That is awesome, right? But that is not all. When Justus' little brother got a cut on his arm, Justus helped his mom clean and bandage it. Justus then prayed for Hudson and assured him that Jesus would make it well. And He did! Justus believes that prayer works because his grandmother prayed. We now pray together about so many things – including his fear of the dark.

One night, I was keeping Justus and Hudson while his mom and dad went out for dinner. After getting Hudson to bed, I read Justus a book and lay down beside him to snuggle and talk.

"Mimi, what are you scared of?" Justus asked. I thought for a minute and said, "Well, I am scared of high places." Before I could say another word, Justus said, "Mimi, I am very scared of the dark! Especially at night when I am trying to go to sleep. "What do you do when you are scared, honey?" I asked. Justus had already invited Jesus into his heart and grown in his faith, so I was curious to see what his answer would be. "Well, I get so scared, I forget what I am supposed to do. What do you do when you get really scared, Mimi?" I was hoping he would ask. "I pray, Justus." Justus thought for a minute before responding, "I get so scared that I forget to pray." I could relate to the honesty of my grandson. "What if I made a sign for you that helped you remember to pray? You could put it on your dresser so you can see it," I offered. "What kind of sign?" Justus asked. I thought for a minute and then said, "Maybe it could say something like, 'When I am afraid, I will pray.' "Justus smiled, his face lit up, and he almost shouted, "That's a great idea, Mimi!"

I started praying for our grandchildren the minute I found out our daughter and daughter-in-law were pregnant with each child. I have not stopped and will continue to do so as long as I have breath. It is one of the greatest gifts I can give them.

I need to spend time with our grandchildren.

I love this description of a grandmother taken from James Dobson's book, A Child's View of Grandma:

"A grandmother is a lady who has no children of her own, so she likes other people's little girls. Grandmas don't have to do anything except be there. They're old, so they shouldn't play hard or run. It is enough if they drive us to the market where the pretend horse is and have lots of dimes ready. Or if they take us for walks, they should slow down past things like pretty leaves or caterpillars. They should never, ever say hurry up. Usually, they are fat, but not too fat to tie kids' shoes. They wear glasses and funny underwear. They can take off their teeth and gums. They don't have to be smart, only answer questions like why dogs hate cats and how come God isn't married? They don't talk baby talk like visitors do because it is hard to understand. When they read to us, they don't skip or mind if it is the same story again. Everybody should try to have a grandmother, especially if you don't have television, because grandmas are the only grown-ups who have got time."

Wow! Everyone spells love T-I-M-E, but that is especially true of grandchildren. Dan and I are fortunate that our grandchildren now live in Kansas City near us, so we get to see them regularly. We are so blessed! We have many traditions that allow us to spend time with the grandkids, but one of Dan's favorite ways is to take them out for breakfast on Saturday mornings. He takes them to "Papa Bites," which is commonly known to the rest of the world as IHOP, and then to Wal-Mart, where they each pick out a small toy.

Four of our grandchildren lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, for several years. It was harder to see them, so I was especially partial to speaking engagements in the Charlotte area. I also tried to arrange flights to other speaking engagements so that they went through Charlotte. If that didn't work, I flew to Charlotte before or after a speaking event to spend several days with our son and his family. We tried to see them every two or three months – and Face time with them as often as possible. It takes time and effort to be a grandparent.

I need to be a role model for our grandchildren.

Our grandchildren know what their Mimi and Papa do for a living – they tell people about Jesus. Papa is a pastor, and Mimi writes devotions, Bible studies, and books and speaks to women across the world about Jesus.

One weekend, Danna and the boys were taking me to the airport. I was on my way to Maryland for a weekend speaking event. The kids were both unusually quiet until Justus said, "But Mimi, I don't want you to go. I want you to stay here and play with me." When his big brown eyes filled with tears, I took Justus' face in my hands and said, "Honey, I need to tell some women about Jesus. You know how important that is, don't you?" He nodded. "But can't somebody else tell them, Mimi?" he asked. Seeing the tears in his eyes and the sad look on his face, I thought it was a good idea, too. But I said, "They could. But Jesus asked me to tell them, so I need to go. How about this? I will tell them how much Jesus loves them and then hurry home to you. Is that a good idea?" He smiled and said, "That's a good idea, Mimi."

It is very important to Dan and me that our grandchildren understand the vital life truth that God comes first in our lives – but we also want them to know that our family comes next. We want to model that truth for them in every way possible – in our behavior, our speech, the way we treat others, the television shows we watch – the way we live our lives. We want them to be able to follow in our footsteps – to examine our lives and find us faithful.

I often tell the ladies to whom I speak that my greatest legacy is not the books, Bible studies, devotions I write, or even the number of speaking events I have each year. No, my greatest legacy is my family. When it is all said and done, I want them to be able to say that I was a woman who loved God and loved her family with all her heart.

I need to create traditions for our grandchildren.

We have established many traditions over the years, but one of my favorites is "Mimi's Movie Dinner Theatre."

Our first grandchildren were twins – Lelia and Jaydan. When our son started his own construction company, he worked many long hours. His wife is an RN who worked three twelve-hour shifts a week. So, you can imagine their crazy schedules. Jodi's mom and I got to Charlotte as often as possible to help them out … a tough job, I know, but somebody had to do it! Right? One of the twins' favorite television shows came on when they were supposed to eat dinner. It was during that tough hour of the day when both kids were tired from playing outside. Lelia and Jaydan knew what immediately followed dinner - baths and bedtime – and they were not fans of either one. I tried to develop a plan that made sure they would eat a good dinner and calm down before bedtime. And that is how Mimi's Movie Dinner Theatre was born!

I let the kids sit at the coffee table in front of the television - a rare treat. I dimmed the lights and lit several candles. Then I prepared their favorite gourmet meal - hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, applesauce, grapes, barbecue chips, and chocolate chip cookies with fruit punch to drink. I served this scrumptious meal on special plates I bought at the dollar store. With a kitchen towel over my left arm, I served their meals and asked in my best French accent, "Is there anything else I can get you, Madam and Monsieur?"

Lelia and Jaydan died laughing - but they ate every bite of their meals. I watched carefully to make sure their drinks were always filled and waited on them hand and foot. When they were finished, I took their plates and wiped the table. I then presented them with the bill and a crayon and asked them to simply sign their names. They loved it! It soon became one of their favorite Mimi traditions. I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate new traditions into the lives of our grandchildren.

Being a grandmother is a high and holy calling. Grandmas are famous for being the most loving and nurturing members of any family. Just hearing the word can fill you with warm and fuzzy memories of your own grandmother. Now that you are a grandma, you know just how important it is to carry on that tradition with the younger generations.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund

Mary Southerland is also the Co-founder of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotion ministry for women. Mary’s books include, Hope in the Midst of Depression, Sandpaper People, Escaping the Stress Trap, Experiencing God’s Power in Your Ministry, Fit for Life, and 10-Day Trust Adventure, You Make Me So Angry, How to Study the Bible, Fit for Life, Joy for the Journey, and Life Is So Daily. Mary relishes her ministry as a wife, a mother to their two children, Jered and Danna, and Mimi to her six grandchildren – Jaydan, Lelia, Justus, Hudson, Mo, and Nori.


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