Updated: Aug 17, 2019
My in-laws are very good and creative at loving their expat grandchildren (and their other 6 grandchildren that live in the US) well. This past week as I was packing up all of our things out of their house, I found this little gem "Gigi" made in 2013 and was reminded yet again of another way they love our kids well. They think of things that are creative, and they are intentional from afar. I often tell grandparents that are having a hard time knowing what they can or should do to love their grandkids well to feel free to reach out to my mother-in-law! I'd love to share this one creative way.
When we moved to India, we had 3 babies! They were 5, 3, and 2 years old. We were in India for more than 3 years without returning to the US at all. When we returned the first time, our kids were 8, 6, and 5 years old (and we also added 2 and 1 year olds to the mix). Those three kids we moved to India turned from toddlers to little kids, and they could read. They would remember more. Yet, they had forgotten almost everything about America in those 3 years at those young ages.
I do know there is something beautiful about the grandparent-grandchild relationship.
Proverbs 17:6 says, "Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers." I also know how much I adored my grandparents and had such a special relationship with them.
I am very well aware that I am merely a daughter and a mom, not a parent with adult children or a grandparent. I realize I do not fully understand how hard it is for parents and grandparents to have their adult children and grandchildren so far away. I do believe one day I will. I do write this post knowing I am limited in these capacities for now. However, I do understand what it is like to be an adult child with a calling from the Lord to live far away. I do understand what it is like to be parent that is raising my kids in a very different culture from my own, and while there are things I love about that, there are things I just flat out hate about it. I do understand what it is like to make decisions about my life that affect my parents, my in-laws, my kids, and all of their relationships with each other. Ugh...painful!
It is a VERY SPECIAL THING to be supported in this specific life choice by people you love so much, and it is also VERY PAINFUL when people you love so much do not support you well, question you, and shame you for this choice. It is one of the most painful things about expat life--I know that for myself and also for many of my dear expat friends. Though the enemy might tempt you to believe if you shame them (make them feel bad about this choice) it is a way of showing love and that you will get the results you want (possibly them to move back home), that is just not true. I get that temptation cause I am often tempted to shame my kids to get what I want, but that is not from the Lord.
Though it is painful and so very hard, I do promise that your love and support will grow your relationship, draw you closer to each other, and it will actually increase the desire for and the longing to be with you, and unfortunately, it will also make you all miss each other so much.
Acts 5:29 says, "We must obey God rather than men." As children grow up, we are all certainly still called to obey and honor our parents, yet we have a priority to obey the Lord above everyone else. I pray as a parent I will always encourage my children to obey the Lord first and help them in that instead of making it harder.
Children that move overseas have a hard time leaving their parents and they often find comfort and claim this promise from the Lord in Luke 18:28-30, "And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Hebrews 10:24, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." I believe this also applies to the parent-child relationship. Parents, consider how to push your kids to love and serve. Children, consider how to encourage your parents in love and good deeds too!
I think one of the best ways to love each other is to "try your best to put yourself in their shoes." "Jesus tells us to Love our neighbor as ourself," Matthew 22:39. I know I am not the best daughter or parent, but I often love my parents, in-laws, and kids best when I imagine what it is like to be them.
I love how Gigi and Grandy get creative and work hard to be intentional to know our kids and to be known by our kids. We know that this is not easy for them (or my parents either) to be grandparents that live with kids and grandkids so very far away. We are thankful for how they support us, encourage us, and are positive about our life in front of our kids.
Grandparents/Parents, please do not grow bitter at your kids' calling from the Lord to be overseas. You do not want to compete with or dare question The Sovereign Lord's command on their lives. Instead, consider how you may love and support them well. I hope this might help you with a fun idea! I'll share some others later.