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Calling All Grandfathers: How to be a Living History Book


Only you can put history in context. Today’s middle schoolers may have heard about 9/11, Pearl Harbor, Watergate, and the Gettysburg Address. They vaguely recognize the names Thomas Edison, Neil Armstrong, Johannes Gutenberg, and Steve Jobs. But they probably can’t place them in the context of history.

Which means your personal memory bank, the stuff you learned in high school, and your worldly awareness can be a great gift to your grandkids.

How to be a Living History Book

At the right time, let them know what you know. Edison was working on perfecting the incandescent light bulb about 20 years after the Civil War. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were sixty years apart. Jobs began his work a half-millennium after Gutenberg.

Most grandparents today remember Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. You can actually give historical context to the civil rights movement, Woodstock, the first PCs, the Space Shuttle Challenger, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Columbine shooting, and the Y2K panic. It’s all part of your life, but it’s “history” to your grandchildren.

Can you see how you are perfectly equipped to take an occasional stroll down memory lane recalling real-life events with your grandchildren?

As they seek their place in this world, many children can’t imagine where they’re going to fit. But you’ve witnessed sweeping changes in technology, geopolitics, social revolution, and exploration. You can help your grandchildren see new career opportunities constantly surfacing.

Your look back at history can motivate them to pursue new experiences. What’s more, your perspective will be free of the many political and social agendas found in today’s classrooms, textbooks, and online resources.

Of course, don’t be that grandma or grandpa always talking about the “good old days” or whining about how easy life is for millennials or post-millennials. Instead, become storytellers and secret keepers. Discern what’s important to each of your grandchildren. Weave their discoveries, curiosities, and desires into the stories you tell. Maybe even help them imagine their future sweet spot.

Don’t forget that even as you affirm that culture and technology changes over time, you should also confirm that some things don’t change. Such as the value of character traits like kindness, curiosity, personal discipline, respect, and the courage to do the right thing. The miracle of birth, the wonder of nature, and the responsibility to use our gifts wisely.

In addition, let your grandchildren know that while the past can’t be changed, it doesn’t have to define them. Mistakes or missed opportunities can be overcome and even serve as learning experiences to make them stronger.

Finally, regularly assure your grandchildren that God’s love and your own unconditional love will never change.