One of my favorite biblical passages states that Jesus came full of “Grace and Truth”. I remember reading that one day and thought, “that’s it, that’s the key to the success of any and every relationship”. If you think about it, all of our relationships, partner relationships, our friendships, co-workers, our relationships with our adult children, and yes, our relationship with our grandchildren, benefit when there is a combination of “Grace and Truth”. One without the other, limits the relationship. Truth without grace turns into judgment, and grace without truth turns into fantasy and unreality. Truth about how the world works coupled with forgiveness and understanding when we fail or make mistakes, creates a balanced and real life with meaningful and healthy relationships.
In relationship to our grandchildren, they need us to be truthful with them, and yet offer them grace when they fail or make mistakes. Often, telling them the truth will come in the form of setting boundaries with them. The truth is, there are real limits in life, and no, we cannot get everything we want, and do not get to do whatever we want to do all the time. We will also need to, age appropriately, tell them the truth about their biological parents. It is not our job or in our grandchildren’s best interest to lie to them about their parents or attempt to protect them. Of course, we also only need to share the truth with them when it is appropriate and called for. We can also teach our grandchildren about grace by demonstrating it toward their parents. That can be challenging at times, especially when our adult children continue to participate in their addiction or unhealthy behaviors and choices. Grace may mean giving our adult children the opportunity to change and grow and become healthy individuals and parents. We can only give them the opportunity, they have to do the work of the growth and learning that will be necessary to become healthy and functional individuals and parents. Grace does not mean offering shortcuts and easy paths.
Continuing with the thought of offering our adult children “Grace and Truth”, we will need to tell our adult children the truth that there are consequences to their choices. In the best interest of our grandchildren, we will need to set clear and consistent boundaries with our adult children. They do not get to tell us how to parent our grandchildren, when they are in our care. That being said, I do realize that the level of authority our adult children have will depend on what legal arrangement you have regarding guardianship and custody. It is easier when you have legal guardianship or have adopted your grandchildren. The hard truth is that you may have to distance or even cut off the relationship with your adult children, especially when they are continuing to participate in their addition or continue to make unhealthy choices in their lives. This principle not only applies to their choices about substance use; it also applies to their choices about relationships and the people they associate with.
We also need to apply the principle of “Grace and Truth” to our relationship with ourselves. The truth is that we are the best option for grandchildren, and they are fortunate that we have stepped up and offered them a safe and loving home. At the same time, we are older and tire more easily than when we raised our own children. Hopefully, we are also more wise and more experienced than the first time around. We will get frustrated; we will lose our cool at times and we will make mistakes. Our angel wings will not always be attached, and we will from time to time have to apologize and say, “I’m sorry”. There will times when we feel lost or confused about how to best respond or meet the needs of our grandchildren. During these times, we need to offer ourselves, “Grace”. It is okay to be confused or lost, and that is why we will need multiple resources of people and services to assist us during these times of confusion.
We will also need to apply the principle to our relationships with our family members and friends. We need to be honest with them about our needs and what we may need from them. The grace part comes in our understanding that they may not initially understand, and therefore, for that reason we will need to communicate what our needs are and how they can assist us. Maybe they can offer us a day of respite and watch our grandchildren but may not know that unless we communicate that we would appreciate such a gift. We may need to be honest with our adult friends who do not have to consider childcare needs when planning their social events, but we do.
“Grace and Truth”, what a wonderful balance for the life that we are walking. In addition to this principle being a great balance for all of our relationships, we will also be modeling the principle in front of our grandchildren and hopefully, they will practice it on themselves and in all of their relationships as well.
Sharing the Journey,