We must “love” carefully in all of our relationships. As we love, we must strive to not usurp the God-ordained primary loves of those around us. If there is a desire in our hearts to have the supremacy in the heart of a close relative, for example, or a person at church or work, or neighbor, outside of God’s expressed order, we could unknowingly be involved in a type of subtle mental adultery.
Let’s look at this subtle tendency even with the natural love of grandparenting, first, so that the transfer of this vital relational principle is more easily understood with any similar additional situation. It is a natural temptation for a grandparent to want to be thought of as wonderful by their grandchild—right up there with Mary Poppins—but if we are not very circumspect in this regard we can unwittingly supplant the child’s love for their own parents in preference for affection toward us. That may feel marvelous to us, but feels terrible to the parents.
Often, parents are weary and beleaguered with the daily challenges of chores and discipline and prefer the unbridled sentimental and lavish expressions of “love” from the grandparent.
So, what the grandparent must continually do when with the grandchild is to support and uplift the efforts and personages of the parents. This can include being swift to point out the labors of the parents in the child’s behalf, the goodnesses in the parents’ character, etc.
Also, it is important to refrain from having secrets with the child of what we shall persuade the supposedly unwilling parents out of. No collusion! We must avoid strategizing with the child as if the parents are the reluctant enemy.
We see this delicate sort of successful loving expressed perfectly within the Trinity, itself. Christ was always referring to the love of the Father. The Father was drawing attention only to the love of the Son. And the Holy Spirit humbly draws the heart to Christ and the Father, and never to Himself. This is how holy love works.
For further reading, see the short e-book on how to be very nearly perfect grandparents: Ideas for surprises and delights.