Grandparenting Relationships: Celebrating the Joy and Connection Between Generations


by Sandi Smoker

In the fall of 1911, my great grandparents bought tickets to sail to America on the Titanic. Eighteen days prior to departure, their daughter, Hazel, turned two – a full paying customer. The cost was beyond my great grandparents’ means so they cancelled with plans to immigrate to Montreal the following year. The story was one of my grandmother Hazel’s favourites. She told stories to connect us, carrying five generations in her memory, inviting the older ones to share the rich fruit of their years, and the younger ones to grow deep family roots. She helped shape my identity through a treasure trove of memory, lived and passed down as storied human document.

Now, I am a grandmother. My seven grandchildren prompt me to inquire of God his intentions for grandparent/grandchild relationships. For example, What does it mean to be human in relation to grandchildren and for them to be fully human in relation to their grandparents, to us? What does it matter? These are some of the questions we will be exploring in our webinar series in the new year.

Christ-centred intergenerational relationships can offer much-needed stability and the affirmation of the worth of both grandparent and grandchild.

We are living longer than our own grandparents these days, thanks to technological advancement. Statistics confirm we are generally healthier too. All that good energy translates into a more active and present role with grandchildren. But what constitutes a holy response to the role of grandparenting in the fast-paced, materialistic, information-driven milieu in which we find ourselves? How might active grandparenting shape both the elder and the child, specific to human development, especially spiritual development? If the human person, created by God, fulfills her true humanity by being in relation, could it be that grandparent and grandchild relationships echo the prevailing passion of the Creator whose delight it is to reveal Godself through human-to-human encounter? Christ-centred intergenerational relationships can offer much-needed stability and the affirmation of the worth of both grandparent and grandchild. The relationship can extend to include non-biological grandparent-grandchild friendships too.

Victorian writer, George MacDonald, offers today’s grandparent an inspiring example that leads us to explore the characteristics of God as represented in literary form. The divine grandmother in MacDonald’s fairy story, The Princess and the Goblin, is the embodiment of divine love. MacDonald writes her in a way that reflects his own open-hearted generosity – as elder, pastor, and grandfather. He is a master storyteller, believing that Story holds the power to transform for good. He writes truth imaginatively, telling it slant, keenly aware of the mysteries we testify to with our lives. Like MacDonald, I want to encourage a slow reciprocating journey between generations by celebrating the joy and connection, similar to the one I knew with my grandmother, Hazel. By entering the spaciousness of divine and human community, we embody relational evidence of God’s life and love in the world.

We extend an invitation to you, to join us as together we explore and expand on The Art of Grandparenting in our upcoming webinar series.

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About the author

The arrival of a grandchild signifies newness in the multigenerational life of a family. With the birth of the child, comes the birth of a grandparent. For Sandi, the year was 2010, the birth resulted in a girl child named Bree. Within ten years, Sandi’s family grew to include seven grandchildren: Bree, Eilidh, Ian, Clara, Sadie, Theo, and Matti. Over that same decade, Sandi engaged in graduate studies with Regent College, working toward a MA in Theological Studies. Her studies culminated in a project she entitled, the Art and Theology of Grandparenting, which she hopes will encourage grandparents and grandchildren, in relation, to express the deep desire of God for human flourishing.

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