I wrote this timeless blog years ago about the summer adventures of my grandchildren and the things I learned from them and about them during our time together. Time has flown by so fast. Now, one is in college, one just graduated from high school, and four range from a freshman to a senior in high school.
Since this blog was so well received by both moms and grandmothers, I thought it was worth repeating. The principles are as applicable today as they were then.
My summer highlight is when all six grandchildren, ages ten to sixteen, gather together for a cousin reunion, better known as “Cousin Camp.” (May they never outgrow that name!) All the planning, preparation, prayer, and shopping that go into our once-a-year tradition has come to an end for another summer. I loved every minute. I cherish the legacy created, the memories made, the traditions established, the pictures captured—along with finding a hair band or a tee-shirt left behind.
Some things never change, but I smile at the new changes that come each year as everyone gets older. I find myself wanting time to stand still.
They are growing up much too fast and too soon.
Gallons of lemonade and my popular peach-mango tea were still consumed, but the new crave was―water. A trail of water bottles went from room to room. I finally had everyone put their initials on the cap with a Sharpie to identify whose bottle was whose. I still line up paper cups on the kitchen counter and have each person write their name on one. Sure saves a lot of confusion and fussing over cups—and water bottles.
I still made an abundance of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and mounds of spaghetti, but a big healthy salad was the number one choice with the girls. My oldest granddaughter loves to bake, so her desserts from Pinterest were a big hit with all of us, especially the boys.
This was the first year we didn’t make crafts. Our stapler, glue, cut-out, and color craft days are over. Last year, simple was replaced with sophisticated. Crafts became a life-work for everyone, so they opted out this year.
This year, the Disney channel took second place to the Food channel and HGTV. We all enjoyed discussing the food and home shows together.
Issues like fixing an overflowing toilet, running out of hot water before the last shower, and the ice maker running out of ice, never seem to change. They took more showers and spent more time fixing their hair—it comes with age, I guess.
I still took at least 100 pictures, but instead of hearing “Nana, please…n-o m-o-r-e pictures,” it was, “Let me see how I look.” Guess that comes with age also.
It seemed everyone was always looking for a missing flip-flop or phone charger. An empty electrical outlet was always in demand since being tangled in cords, plugs, and chargers is now a part of life.
I thought I was really clever in suggesting they each put their initials on their chargers with a Sharpie to easily identify them. They thought that was so smart. I may not know how all their electronics work, but my common sense sure was a winner. (Sharpies are my new best friend!)
This year I started a “no phone zone” and a “no phone time.” Nana’s rules: no phones at the kitchen table or in a restaurant during family time together, or when others are talking with you. I – w i l l – n o t – g i v e – u p – o r- g i v e – in!
My three grandsons and three granddaughters played board games anywhere they could gather around a table ― day or night. They rode bikes and boogie boards, went swimming, played kickball, wiffleball, volleyball, and softball for hours of fun and bonding. I stood on the sidelines with my pom-poms cheering them on.
The sound of giggles and conversations continued until “lights out” echoed up the stairs. Staying up late and sleeping in has become a summer ritual.
Another tradition is our “Summer Birthday’s Celebration.” Since we are all together only once a year, we celebrate everyone’s birthday with cake and ice cream, sing Happy Birthday as a group, and each person wears my silly birthday hat and has their picture taken. Corny? Yes. But they always seem to remind me not to forget. Some things never change…thank goodness.
I watched, participated, listened, and learned. I have tucked the tender moments in my heart.
God teaches me life lessons through the world of my grandchildren and reminds me of things I know, but can easily forget, in the busyness of my daily life. Perhaps they will be a good reminder for you too.
It’s not about me. I learned to put aside my schedule, my agenda, and my wants. Cousin Camp is just that—it’s all about the cousins.
Have no expectations. The sooner I learned to relax and let go of any expectations of our time together, the smoother the days went, and the more fun we had. God had to work with me on this one!
Above all, don’t compare. I was reminded that comparing grandsons and granddaughters who are different ages, have different personalities and temperaments, and come from two different family life-styles, is unfair to the child. Accepting their differences allows each one to be who God made them to be, without the pressure of performance to please.
Movies vs. games. There is a huge difference in watching movies and playing board games together. You have to be quiet to listen and watch a movie. Board games encourage conversation and interaction. There is a time for both, but I learned not to defer to movies to keep everyone occupied.
Making crafts creates memories. As long as they love it, do it. It gives them the opportunity to share ideas, learn from each other, and compliment each other on their accomplishment. Although my grandchildren have outgrown making crafts, they still have some of the simple things they made from years ago. When they lose interest in making crafts, there will be other ways for them to express their individual creativity. My granddaughters love to cook and bake. They create fun memories in the kitchen together.
Talk time is priceless. Whether it’s sitting outside or around the dining table, be intentional about gathering together, with no distractions, to create conversation time. With a few questions, I learned about what they were thinking, things they were doing, and caught a glimpse of life through their eyes. And they learned about each other.
A little space is a good thing. Every person needs some time and space to do their own thing. I learned they don’t have to always do everything together or in a group.
It’s caught, not taught. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and being considerate of others are best caught through the example of how I treat them and others. Pointing out the error of their ways in front of everyone else can be embarrassing and humiliating. If I had to correct someone’s behavior, I would do it one-on-one, away from everyone else. We would sit on the floor together, eye-to-eye, and talk it through, ending with a hug and a smile that conveyed my unconditional love.
Choose your battles. I learned to ask myself, “Is this a hill high enough to die for? Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? At the end of the day, will it really matter?”
A sense of humor goes a long way. I learned to lighten up, laugh a lot, and that being silly brings giggles from all ages.
Manners matter. Please, thank you, excuse me, I’m sorry, chew with your mouth shut, and elbows off the table, have always been a part of “Nana’s Manners,” and manners are not left at the door at Cousin Camp. My daughter often says in jest, “You don’t want to have to go to ‘Nana’s Manners School.’ It lasts for hours!” I learned that you don’t give up on what matters.
Hold hands and stick together. Cousin Camp is all about connecting with each other, building memories, and learning the importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself—your family. I learned that when you encourage them to hold hands and stick together, one day you will have the joy of seeing them do it on their own.
I am also reminded that these are not just lessons learned regarding my grandchildren, but also with my adult children and their spouses, extended family, friendships, and those I serve with in ministry. Lord, keep teaching me, reminding me, and never let me forget.
May Cousin Camp memories live on in our hearts for years to come.
From My Heart to yours,
P.S. As an encouragement to all those who tirelessly pour time and life skills into your children and grandchildren thinking, “Will I ever see the fruit of my labor and love?”―don’t give up! The seeds you plant, the things you say and do, and how you continue to pursue a life worthy of imitation will, at some point, begin to bear fruit and grow. Even though we may never see results in our lifetime, God is faithful and will honor our good work in His perfect timing.
As my grandchildren get older, I see kindness and thoughtfulness emerge all the more. I hear manners being practiced at the table and with others. And just recently when all the cousins were together for a yearly visit, they were united and bonded as a family who has connected and built memories together.
May Cousin Camp memories live on in our hearts for years to come…