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Relationship Sandwich

There are many days that I truly feel the effects of being in The-Sandwich-Generation: the stage of life when I am squeezed between my aging mother and my own grown children and growing grandchildren. I can easily become overwhelmed as “Pam time” becomes less and less. Frequently, I must return to God’s Word for His guidance through this season of life. What does He say about my relationships with my one remaining parent? My grown children? My grandchildren?

“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). This commandment is the first in the book of Exodus to include a promise. We typically view our parents as being responsible for the wellbeing of us, their children. But there comes a point when these roles are reversed. How do I assume responsibility for an aging parent and, at the same time, show her honor?

These are some lessons I am learning as I love, honor, and care for my almost 90-year-old mother. I need to honor her dignity and respect her independence as much as possible. I must remember how difficult it is to let go of control and independence and to ask for help, especially when she has been the caregiver for so many years. As I continue to support my mom in this stage of her life, I must remember to be sensitive to her emotions and feelings. Philippians 2:5 tells me “in your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” The Bible teaches me to be loving, compassionate, selfless, tender, and humble in my relationships. Sometimes I need a reminder that this is the manner in which I am to approach my mother.

I honestly liked it better when she was the one caring for and supporting me! Reflecting on her selfless acts in raising me and helping us raise our three sons pushes me toward an attitude reversal, when I need one. I recall her sacrificial acts when my sisters and I were growing up as she was always there for us, meeting our every need. Mom wore this wool coat with a fur collar for years. I would ask her, “Why do you not buy a new coat?” She would respond, “I like this coat. It is just fine.” I know now that she would have enjoyed having a new coat. But she sacrificially kept wearing her old coat so that my growing sisters and I could have what we needed. She continued to provide me unending support when we had three sons at home, even to the point of helping to make it possible for me to complete my BS and master’s degrees in my mid-30s – something that would have been much more difficult without her involvement.

It takes a lot of daily prayer for my mom and all the family members involved in her care. I continually ask the Lord for wisdom and patience as I seek to handle this season of life with her with grace, humility, and love.

And then on the flip side of “the sandwich” I have my grown children. I am still their parent but, according to God’s truths, what does this look like now that they are adults?

First, I have to remember that we raised our sons in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) and we trained them in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), and loved and disciplined them for their sake (Proverbs 13:24). We were not perfect parents but we truly sought His guidance and wisdom as we raised them. When our sons left our “nest” it was time to fully turn them over to our heavenly Father who loves them more than we ever could. It was time to trust that He would continue to guard and guide them according to His good and perfect will.

This is not a task that is checked off, once and done – it is a continual process. I mean, after all, we poured 20+ years into raising and nurturing these three people. It is not an easy task to relinquish and there are many times I find myself slipping back into the role of wanting to be in control. Once again it takes a lot of prayer as I seek how to love and support our sons and their families, encourage their walks with the Lord, and to offer advice only when it is sought. Now that can be a hard one! There are many times we have to recognize and accept that the decisions they make are adult decisions. The decisions may not be the ones we would have made but we continue to love and support them and trust God’s purposes. The bottom line is LOVE, LOVE, LOVE as Christ sacrificially loves His church.

And now we have the added layer of grandchildren. I often say this truly is the best stage of life! Proverbs 17:6 says, “Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly.” Amen! What joy our seven grandchildren give us. But what is our role according to God in these relationships?

The Christian life is like a race and we are called to run until the end (Hebrews 12:1-3). He expects us to pour into the lives of others for His honor and glory. We do this by praying specifically for each grandchild. Pray for them to have strong, healthy, Godly family relationships. Pray for our own children to have Godly wisdom as they raise our grandchildren. We pray for each grandchild to come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that the relationship will grow and flourish.

Be present in our grandchildren’s lives. Connect in every way possible, even if that must be through the use of technology and not in person. Sow into their lives. Tell stories about us. My grandchildren love to hear stories of our parents and grandparents, of our lives growing up, of struggles we had and how God helped us overcome. They love to hear stories about their parents. All of these are wonderful teachable moments of God’s goodness, provision, and faithfulness.

Listen to your grandchildren. Be available to give council or to lend a listening ear when needed. Never go against or dispute their parents, but be there to support and encourage as needed.

“He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.” Psalm 78:5-7

So what about “me” in this relationship sandwich? I Peter 5:7, one of my favorite life verses, tells us to “cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” With my cares cast upon Him, these are the areas on which I focus.

Take care of my WHOLE self. Spiritually that means time with Him and in His Word DAILY. Physically that means eating in a healthy manner, being physically active, and getting plenty of rest. I need to recognize that I have limits so I attempt to set healthy boundaries. Emotionally be careful what I am allowing myself to see, hear, and experience.

I recognize that it is okay to have “me” time. That means taking time to do what I want to do--read a book, take a walk, shop, restore or paint a piece of furniture. I also recognize the need to invest time in my marriage. That means time with my spouse alone—little dates, travel, walks, even TV/movie time.

We were created to be warriors for God’s purposes. As we press forward into that purpose, we sow into the lives of others on many levels as we build relationships. I truly believe I am called to live intentionally and to build into the next generations. What better platform to do this than from the layers of the sandwich God has given me!

“So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:3


Pam Bandermann, from Cape Girardeau, MO, is married to Rick and they have 3 sons and 7 grandchildren. Pam is a semi-retired school district administrator and her passions are traveling, reading, serving college students through the ministry of her local church, and spending time with family and friends.

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