A special love
For example, I taught my three-year-old granddaughter a way of saying, “I Love You.” And it all began with a game using a stethoscope so she could hear my heart beating. In fact, all my grandchildren have loved this game. What they didn’t know at the time was that it was developing a belief that we are all connected to each other; that we are part of humanity, and that our hearts all beat the same.
Anyone can say I love you, but people can still be mean to each other. So, I use the love word in all our conversations where it’s appropriate. When you say I love you from the deepest part of your heart it’s special. What I get my grandkids to do is to feel that love by showing them the meaning, because even if they misbehave, the love is always there. Love is unconditional.
I enjoy taking the grandchildren for ‘love walks’. Walking and seeing where love exists. You might see someone scratching a dog’s tummy; kids giggling as they’re running up and down; or people holding hands. You can see love in the birds and the trees too. If you want to expand your horizons, there’s probably no shortage of ways of seeing love. It’s everywhere. In the animal kingdom, the human kingdom, wherever you look for it, you can see love.
There’s never going to be too much love in the world.
When you are full of love, you can pass love onto others. It comes with compassion and understanding and community and humility. I’m still learning about love. I’m in my sixties now and it’s one of those things you really never stop learning about.
I think being 60 is a more settled time in your life when life is going pretty well and it’s easier to love because you’re not under the same pressure that adults with young children are under. You don’t have the financial pressures i.e., a new home mortgage and small children.
I believe this generation is better at having time for themselves so that life doesn’t pass them by. You hear about people who get to retirement and don’t enjoy it. My children are much better at that even though some of them stay in toxic environments longer than they really should or could.
We all go through good times and bad times, so I hope the next generation can be even better at looking after themselves than even this generation. There has to be a balance between being responsible and getting a roof over your head and looking after yourself and the people around you with kindness. You can only do that if you are not overworked.
And you have the ability to be patient and kind when you’re not stressed and not you’re running from pillar to post trying to get things done. Stress does terrible things to people. I’ve worked with people in stressful work environments and reasonable people who become unreasonable and say unreasonable things because they’re stressed.
Compassion for others is a really wonderful trait, and you can teach this to your grandkids from early on. Often parents find this difficult, especially when children are going through the early developmental stages.
Teaching graciousness rather than using the word ‘loser’ is also important. In all games, teach compassion and understanding and allow others to flourish. The term loser has never sat comfortably with me. There’ll always be a winner and you congratulate the person who comes first. But the people who don’t come first should also be congratulated.
They might be coming last, but they finish the race and should be welcomed with a clap. That’s the way to help people flourish because certainly children want to be first. We’re not all going to be the fastest runner in the world, or the best high jumper, or the best public speaker. That’s not what life is all about.
I have a twin brother, and growing up with him was about competition; who could run faster, who could kick the ball football longer. I had to work really hard not to have my relationship with him turn onto one long competition.
When love is the first response, life is easier and more meaningful for the whole family. True anger is only going to last less than 90 seconds. You can slip back into love really easily and quickly. And when you’re in a loving family, you are role modelling the response that love comes first.
For example, if someone drops a glass on the floor and it breaks into a thousand pieces. If you are under pressure and frustrated as a parent you might say, “I don’t have any time. Why is that glass broken? Now I have to clean it up. I told you not to have it so close to the edge of the table.”
But if you are in a loving and kind space and not frustrated, you’d say, “Please step back. I don’t want you to cut your feet. Let’s get it and clean it up. I’ll get the brush and you can get the pan and we’ll clean it up together.”
The child doesn’t have guilt and thinking they’re always doing the wrong thing. In a loving family, you’re responding to critical situations with ease and grace which sets up a beautiful pattern for a family.
So, smile when you see people holding hands. When you look for love, you’ll see it everywhere. And when you recognise it, take a moment to bring it into your heart. I teach my grandchildren that it’s good to put your hand on your heart and to feel that love inside.
When you play with your grandchildren, you’re teaching them about patience and love. Be forgiving of their mistakes because being young they will make a lot of mistakes. I imagine what values I want my grandchildren to acquire over life, and then I begin to teach them to be patient and to be kind.
And take your grandchildren on walks where you can see love. Let the joy of your grandchildren wash over you and bring meaning to your life. I can’t begin to explain how much meaning my grandchildren have for me. Endless!
Footnote: Dr Robyn Mills has three daughters and seven grandchildren. This is an edited version of a Parenting Session podcast with Robyn titled Grandparents Special Love for their Grandchildren. It can be accessed at www.majellan.media/parenting-sessions/
World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly will be celebrated on July 24.
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