For many of us, fall is a time for fun, for seasonal activities, school activities, and holiday celebrations.
Many Catholic grandparents have the opportunity to share in these, bringing a slightly different perspective from that of the secular world, one that is shaped by a faith tradition that is two thousand years old. Grandparents are fun, and bring a different and special kind of love to the family. As you celebrate the feast of the archangels, the guardian angels, All Saints’ Day, and even other secular holidays, grandparents have the unique opportunity to mingle their faith with fun.
Barb Felix got an unexpected call from her grandson during the summer after his high school graduation. He wanted to join Barb and her husband, Fred, on their Vermont vacation. Barb and Fred were elated, and they even told their grandson he could bring his girlfriend, on the condition that she would sleep in the guest room and he would sleep on the living room couch.
The boy’s father was surprised. “Why would they want to go on vacation with you and Dad?” he asked Barb.
“Because we’re fun!” she replied.
Grandparents are fun, partly because they have lived long enough to know the kinds of things that kids love to do, and partly because they don’t carry any responsibility for childrearing. Most grandparents have grown beyond the point where they care what other people think. They can be silly. They can sing songs. They can laugh at corny jokes. They can love, support, and have fun with their grandchildren without any strings attached. Even when grandparents are not physically capable of doing everything their grandchildren do, they can cheer from the sidelines.
Most grandparents know that fun doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or expensive. Grandkids love simple activities such as feeding ducks, throwing stones in a creek, picking apples, flying a kite, eating a picnic lunch, and going to a beach.
When asked what kind of fun activities they like to do with grandchildren, the grandparent responses were wide-ranging:
• playing cards and board games
• drawing with chalk outside
• reading books
• building towers with blocks and knocking them down
• playing on the floor with the young ones
• doing arts and crafts
• building train sets
• having sleepovers
• cooking and baking
• playing dress-up
• going for a walk
• eating ice cream
• going to the park or the playground
The kinds of fun grandparents have with grandchildren are unique to each family. When Barb Wyse’s three grandsons were little, they loved going to playgrounds. So Barb decided that her car would automatically stop at all playgrounds. “If we drove by a playground, we would stop and play for a while. Then we would get back in the car and do what we had to do. My grandsons are all young adults now, but they still talk about it. It was a lot of fun!”
When the grandchildren of Peter and Marianna Konieczny were little, Peter built a jungle gym for them. “Play with them. Joke with them. Have a sense of humor,” he suggests.
Marianna agrees. “We always played together,” she says. “We took them to parks and for pony rides. In the winter, we would play with snowballs. We created a skiing mountain, and they loved that. Being together is the most beautiful part.”
It’s fun to have the whole gang together, but there are also advantages to one-on-one time—which often starts with fun and evolves into more meaningful interactions and problem solving.
Joni Seith remembers the day she was giving her grandson an art lesson. He told Joni that he wasn’t allowed to have a treat because he hadn’t been good at Mass that morning. “I was talking at Mass, and I wasn’t supposed to,” he admitted. When Joni asked why, he told her that he was afraid he would forget what he wanted to ask Mommy, so he kept bothering her. Joni suggested that he take a little pad to Mass and draw pictures or write words to remind him of what he wanted to tell Mommy after Mass. “I’ll be writing the whole time!” he told her.
Kay Aitchison agrees that individual interaction is important. “When they get to be young teenagers, they come and help with chores, and you have time for one-on-one,” she says. “You get to know them in another way. If you can say the right things, it opens a lot of discussion possibilities.”
Enjoying Every Moment
Michael and Sally Suchyna have seventeen grandchildren, and they enjoy watching them play soccer, basketball, hockey, and lacrosse, run track, and do gymnastics. They attend their grand-children’s concerts, plays, and dance recitals. “Over a year, we attend probably 150 to 200 of these events,” Mike notes.
For the last twenty years, the Suchyna family has also taken a weeklong summer vacation at a lake house, along with some of their children and grandchildren. But Mike says it’s not necessary to go away. Being together at home is wonderful too. “The Florida family usually comes up in the summer for two weeks, and we all have a great time when we get together with them,” he explains. “We enjoy every moment.”
Diane Germain agrees. She is the grandmother of six. “The best thing about being a grandparent is everything!” she says. “My grandchildren have taught me how to live life to the full and to live in the moment. They are my purest joy.”
Faith and Fun
One of the best things about being Catholic is how much fun it can be to celebrate feast days and other special times. Here are some ideas on how grandparents can incorporate faith and fun with grandchildren of all ages:
• Celebrate saints. Let your children select favorite saints, read saints’ stories, make saint costumes, and have your own saints parade.
• Play Christmas. Buy an unbreakable nativity set that your grandchildren can play with all year round. It will reinforce in their minds the true meaning of the season.
• Make rosaries with colored beads. Your grandchildren can give the rosaries to family members as gifts. Or donate the rosaries to the missions.
• Put on a play. Select a favorite Bible story, and let your grandchildren act it out. Letting stories come alive makes them more real.
• Make a Mass kit so your grandchildren can play Mass. You’ll need a small box to use as an altar, a cloth to cover the box, a plastic cup, a small plate, a crucifix, and some candy wafers for “Communion.” Some priests will tell you the seeds of their vocations were planted as they played Mass as children.
• Draw your guardian angels. Trace your grandchild on large paper, and let them draw wings and a halo on the image. Cut out the angel, and let your grandchild decorate with crayons.
• Play Catholic charades. Use songs, names of saints, Catholic phrases, and Bible stories. Your grandkids will love acting out the words and guessing the answers.
• Make Catholic cakes on feast days and other special occasions, decorating them with a cross, the initials of a saint, or some other symbol.
This is a selection from The Catholic Grandparents Handbook: Creative Ways to Show Love, Share Faith, and Have Fun by Lorene Hanley Duquin. The Word Among Us Press (2018). Available at www.wau.org/books.