There is just a little extra twinkle in their eyes. There is a little spring in their step. Most of the time there is a mischievous and a hilarious little grin that breaks out on their face.
They want to tell me a secret, and I let them. But I already know what’s coming. The look on their face says it all. They are about to see their grandparents (or if your prefer nana and pop, or if you are really from the country—like me—mamaw and papaw).
They are excited, and I don’t blame them at all. I have observed that some grandparents (i.e. my parents) let the grandkids get away with things their parents never got away with.
When my oldest son was 4, he loved Thomas the Train. More often than not, our house was like one big train station. Consequently, when he needed an important life lesson reinforced by discipline, one effective means was to take the trains away.
One day I did just that. Joshua messed up and lost his trains. He was hurt, but I could see the wheels were turning in his head. A few minutes later, he made an odd request. He asked for the phone, because he wanted to call Papaw.
How sweet, I thought. He misses papaw and wants he hear his voice. Proudly I grabbed the phone and dialed the number. When I handed him the phone to him, a strange thing happened. He took off like an Olympic sprinter headed for the finish line! His destination was his bedroom.
He quickly disappeared into the room only to emerge a few seconds later with his arm extending to hand me the phone. When I took the phone, all I could hear was the roaring laugh of my father on the other end. He explained that Joshua called to rat me out. “Papaw,” he said, “Daddy took my trains. Make him give them back.”
Dad did think this was hilarious, but his life was a cover up for his real mission. Before I knew it, I was on trial. Like a defendant pleading his case, I explained how what Joshua had done was wrong and how he needed to learn a lesson.
My dad patiently waited for me to finish. Calmly he said, “I understand. He needs to learn hard lesson. I think he has learned it, so give the trains back.”
I stood there with my mouth wide open. I am pretty sure there is a secret place at my parent’s house that to this day, still has confiscated toys that were never returned so that I would learn some vital lesson.
“Dad,” I protested, “Your killing me. I would have never gotten away with this.” “I know,” he responded. “Isn’t it great? If I had known how much fun grandkids are, I would have had them much earlier.”
The longer I work with kids, the more common this response becomes. There is something wonderful (I am tempted to say magical) that exists between grandparents and grandchildren. And I—for one—am glad.
I am glad because the Bible teaches us that wisdom often gained as we age (Prov. 16:31). That means our children are exposed to a wealth of wisdom they otherwise would miss. In a culture that worships youth and spends millions of dollars chasing youth, there is something refreshing and necessary to be gained from those who have lived a little while. And, at least according to the kids, I know that wisdom often comes with candy. And if you are really good, you get your trains back.
(By the way, Joshua won and got the trains. I guess it is good to have grandparents).