Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Filling the Grandparent Gap

By Brenda Black

Something besides radio active material, toxic cucumbers or earthquakes has hit the West Coast. It's a new kind of babysitter. She's wiser and older, and comes with decades of experience. And she doesn't spend your time or dollar texting her boyfriend while she's in charge of your kids. Rent-a-GrandmaTM is a new company meeting domestic staffing needs in the Los Angeles area, with their sights set on going national.

At http://rentagrandma.com, they describe their employees as “screened mature (age 50+) women who are only the most professional, experienced staff and meet the standards you will demand for your own 'Grandma'.”

I think this is an idea that has come of age, literally, and might just introduce some common sense along with safe child care back to the domestic scene in America. Instead of latchkey kids or institutionalized daycare, families can look like families again and school age kids can come home to cookies and milk and the warmth of human contact instead of games on line or internet chat.

My sons have been blessed with “real” grandmas and grandpas who have influenced their lives in countless ways. Sweet treats, tickle attacks, card games, overnight stays, an ever-supportive audience to any event they've ever entered and lots of lovin' is still offered up to them in steady doses. More importantly, they've garnered decades of wisdom, prayer cover and the privilege of friendship from an older generation.

We haven't always lived close to kin; in those times the Lord added rather than subtracted by providing older, loving friends who became like family. And we didn't have to rent them!

We enjoyed the affection of Granny Fern and Papa Ralph when Austin was an infant. I came home from the hospital with my first born to an air conditioned house because of their thoughtfulness. They lavished us with time and entertainment that included counting humming birds, fishing and ice cream excursions. Granny Fern kept me posted on any new little thing that my baby attempted and Papa Ralph hand crafted Austin's first cradle and a rocking horse that sits in my living room to this day.

By the time Austin turned three and little brother Cooper was added to the picture, we had relocated right next door to another elderly couple two counties west. Damon and Wilma spoiled our family with home baked pies, sweet backyard visits and extra eyes to keep track of active boys. Cooper and Grandpa Damon shared a birthday and every year they picked the first apple from one of his trees to celebrate. As the boys grew, the roles shifted. Instead of the neighbor watching out for the kids, I enlisted them to watch out for Damon. They reported if he was on a ladder or getting too hot in the garden and I'd make an excuse to “just stop by” and make sure he was okay. That's what families do.

With yet another move, we gained Donnie and Vernille, who welcomed our family into their own and included us on every occasion. They prayed with us and for us and fed us and blessed us over and over. Austin gleaned farming wisdom from Donnie and talked cattle and tractors. Both of our sons witnessed how much love breaks down generational barriers and melds hearts together in friendship. We remain the fortunate recipients of sincere prayer from this lovely couple no matter the present distance.

All of these grandparents are part of our family history. And there are dozens more in every church where we ministered, in each city we lived. Their precious influence was never for sale or rent. It was given and received in love and worth millions. That's why the Scriptures teach us to “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.” (Leviticus 19:32a)

God just keeps providing the opportunity to be blessed and to bless. When we left our now adult son 13 hours from home two weeks ago, it was a little easier since meeting an older woman at the church he'll attend. She was warm and kind and generous and extended the grandma factor wholeheartedly by inviting my son for a home-cooked meal whenever he wanted some company. The grandparent gap filled yet again.

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