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The Grandfather’s Vocation

October was Grandchildren Month for my wife and me. Early in the month, two new Leithart boys entered the world, each a first son of one of my sons. With their births, our grandchild tally rises to fifteen. For those keeping score, grandsons have moved into a fourth-inning 8-7 lead over granddaughters, though I hasten to add that it’s not (yet) a competition. At the end of the month, we visited my oldest son, father to the two teenage boys who are our oldest grandchildren. 

Newborns and teenagers—just like old times for us. It’s also our future. Only half of my children are married, so I anticipate more grandchildren, with a growing age spread that will include teens, tweens, and toddlers for a long while. Age spread is old news to us too, and it creates some odd twists in the family tree. More than two decades separate our oldest from our youngest child; my oldest was off to college by the time his youngest sister was born. Though they’re in the same family, they have never lived in the same house. Yet in some ways, the age spread binds the family together. My youngest daughter is closer in age to her oldest nephew than to any of her siblings. It’s likely that some of my great-grandchildren will be roughly the same age as some of my grandchildren. Greats and grands will mingle like cousins, bridging the gap of generations. 

“Bridge” is a clue to what I take to be my vocation as a grandfather. We all know the joke: Grandparents take revenge on their kids by spoiling their grandkids, then handing the toxic little monsters back to their parents to deal with the fallout. I don’t accept it, and not just because I’m not overly fond of spoiled kids. Our calling is precisely the opposite: We love, care for, and teach our grandchildren to honor their parents so they grow up to bear a heritage of Christian faith and are prepared to do the same for their children and their children’s children. We can’t reach a thousand generations (Exod. 20:6), but we can reach to a third, or, if the Lord wills, embrace a fourth.

And our influence extends further. By leaving an imprint on our grandkids, we throw a line to generations we’ll never live to see. I want my grandchildren to tell their grandchildren about my wife and me, as I reminisce to them about my grandparents. To be a grandparent is to build a bridge of hope from the past into the future.

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