Ep. 130 – Grandfathers and Grandmothering Making a Difference with Richard and Linda Eyre
Steve: Welcome to all, our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you might be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, and we have some extraordinary guests together with us today. These guests have been reaching out and blessing the world for good for decades. They are close personal friends and I am excited to welcome Rick and Linda Eyre. Welcome to the Eyres!
Richard: Well, thank you, Steve and when you say decades that tells all your listeners that we’re a couple of old fogies in here.
Linda: Speak for yourself, honey. Anyway, this is going to be so fun Steve. We have loved the Shallenberger family for so many years, for so many reasons so this is exciting for us.
Steve: Well, thanks. Of course, it’s totally mutual and so we’ll just get after it. First of all, before we get started, I’d like to give our listeners a little background about Rick and Linda. We’re going to talk about a couple of new books that they have today which are so far out of the park, they are grand slams! It’s been really fun reading them but first of all, I’d like to tell you about them and at the back of Linda’s book, Grandmothering, is a perfect synopsis that helps us learn more about them. Linda is, along with Rick, a New York Times Number One Best-Selling author (both of them are) whose writing career has spanned four decades, whose books are sold in the millions. Linda and her husband, Rick, have appeared on virtually all major national talk shows including Oprah, Today and have seen their books translated into a dozen languages. They write a syndicated weekly newspaper column and currently spend most of their time traveling and speaking to audiences throughout the world on families, parenting, and life balance. And trying to keep up with 31 and counting grandchildren with, I think, it’s 9 children. Is that right?
Linda: That’s right.
Richard: That’s right. The numbers are overwhelming.
Steve: Well, good enough and then in the back of Rick’s book that we are going to talk about today, it has a list of other books by Richard Eyre. Rick, I went down and counted all of these books on both sides of that sheet and there’s 49 of them if I counted right which means that the grandfathering book might be number 50.
Linda: That’s right, you are amazing.
Richard: Boy, you’re pretty sharp. It is number 50 and so it better be good because you don’t want to have a number 50 that doesn’t hit it out of the park, right? But I’ll tell you something kind of funny Steve because your listeners can’t see these books in front of them right now but here’s the backstory. Actually, our publisher several years ago said, we got to do a book on grandparenting because you go in a bookstore, there’s 1000 books on parenting and there’s virtually nothing on grandparenting and he said, you know, there’s more grandparents now than any other time in the history of the world. There’s 80 million baby boomers just in America alone and most of them are grandparents. Where’s the book for them?
So anyway, we started working on a grandparenting book, but here’s the funny thing. We got pretty far into it and realized that Linda was writing to grandmothers and I was writing to grandfathers and they’re two different animals, Steve. We decided to do it in two separate books and mine is a thin little book. It’s mostly bullet points because most grandpas are like me. They don’t want to read some exhausted thing. They just want to get to the action. Where does the rubber meet the road? What can I do? Linda’s book is a big, old book because grandmas want it all.
Linda: That’s not cute. Just bigger, bigger. Well, grandmothering is just the most fun. In fact, it’s just named Grandmothering but the subtitle is The Secrets to Making a Difference while Having the Time of Your Life, and that’s what I feel like we’re doing.
Steve: Well, that’s great. Before we get into this, I’ve got a question that’s just kind of been in the back of my mind. I’ve been wanting to ask you, how did you meet and how did you get going in the business of joy schools, helping others, parents and grandparenting? How did this come about?
Richard: Well, that will take us about a half hour but we got time.
Linda: We’ll condense this down. Actually, we met at Utah State University. I was a little freshman and Richard was, I don’t know, older.
Richard: Oh, I was older. I must have been older then because I sure am now.
Linda: So it was really funny. The first night I went out with him, and thank you for asking because we haven’t repeated the story for a long time, I was enamored and I went home and look at my roommate with whom I had planned a trip to Europe, you know, the next year and I said, “Elaine, I am so sorry. I have met the person I am going to marry and we’re not going to be able to do this.” We both cried and cried and cried. I mean, this is the first night. Then the second date, Rick started being Rick and wanted to change my schedule and do everything.
Richard: I wanted her to break dates with any other guys she had dates with. You know, I mean, let’s get on with it.
Linda: So I went back home to my roommate and said, “Never mind. Just never going to work.” And then it’s all history from them on.
Richard: Well, I got to tell you the funny part of it, Steve, and Linda will hit me here. We’re sitting right next to each other but Linda was the homecoming queen and I was away on a tennis trip and I had a good buddy of mine call her up and, sort of, pretend that I was her official escort and I just showed up and picked her up. She didn’t know the better for it and so that shows you that a great relationship can actually get started on a falsehood, on a lie. But anyway, it’s been great and to answer the important question really fast.
You know this Steve. I’m a Harvard business school guy, Linda’s a professional musician and we had no intention of writing family or parenting books but we were disappointed with some of the ones that were out because they were behavioral scientists. They were too detailed. They were based on an audience of other’s people’s sick kids. We wanted a management book. We wanted a book on how to raise a family in a proactive way, so we wrote one and we didn’t even know if we were going to publish it, but it turned out a lot of people agreed with what we said in there that look, a family is an organizational challenge, it’s a management challenge, you base it on sound principles and a lot of people liked it, it became a best seller and suddenly we were writers.
Linda: And then actually, what we thought was the most important was to teach children joy.
Richard: Yeah, little kids.
Linda: And that sounded so ethereal and esoteric but man, it has really worked but not without a lot of trouble, let me just say because we were just with our son who is now…Three of our boys now are quitting their jobs to work with one of our sons who’s starting a new business. And we were talking about how crazy it was to start a new business, as you know so well Steve, and how we were cold calling people on the phone, on three different lines. His mother was helping us and we were calling and asking if they had preschoolers and would they like to teach their children joy and if they didn’t, do you know anybody that is? I mean, that’s how these things start and then has just blossomed into…
Richard: And I discovered, Steve, I’m much more risk-averse. You’re probably the same way. When it comes to my kids, I’m risk-averse. I’m like, “Keep your day job. Don’t take any risks.” And then they remind me that when I was their age, I was taking all kinds of risks. That’s part of the whole grandparenting thing, is realizing that we’re not in charge anymore. We’re just the consultants. We’re the guys that sit in the back and try to give good advice.
Steve: Well, great. This is good stuff and we’re going to talk more about the books. I am so excited. For those that don’t know the Eyres, this is the tip of the iceberg and there’s such a total inspiration and give such great perspectives and so many parts of life. As you’re starting to see already, they’ve had to work for it. But they’ve really thought about what’s best and that leads me to the second question before we talk about the books. It’s another one I’ve been thinking about. Have you ever had a really big setback? And if you have, I mean, a real challenge for you, and how did you work through it and how are you different because of that setback?
Richard: No, our life has been nothing but sunshine and roses.
Steve: Why do that?
Richard: One success to the next.
Linda: Sort of.
Richard: Never look back.
Linda: Thank you for asking because, wow.
Richard: We wish.
Linda: Our lives have been full of setbacks. That’s part of life, right?
Linda: Business setbacks as well as other things. I mean, there were things that we were so worried about at the time and then somehow you push on through and somehow make it work.
Richard: You know, Steve, businesses are always up and down and we’ve all had our share of good times and bad times but the setbacks that are the most worry-some, I’m sure you’d agree, are when you have a grandchild that has special needs or when you have a child with a learning disability or when you have a marriage among your children that’s not going as well as it should. The ones that really matter are the human ones and we’ve had our share of those but we’re working through them.
Steve: Well, that gives you perspective and a sensitivity as you communicate in different books and especially in grandparenting. I mean, for heaven’s sake, how many grandkids again?
Richard: 31, so what are the odds, right?
Linda: Yeah, we just had number 30 in New York City and number 31 in London five days later, like three weeks ago. So we are really excited about our new babies. You know, as you say, Steve, it really is interesting because with that many kids, you know, there’s always got to be problems. We had a little baby. It was born with a really serious heart defect in Los Angeles. Luckily, a children’s hospital there which is the best hospital in the world, working through that has been so, so interesting and full of worry and fretting and so on. That has become a great story. We found a surgeon when she was two and a half who literally fixed her up. It was amazing, like a miracle he said. I went in, I carved out the tissue, I fix the hole, she should be good to go for the rest of her life. I mean, that’s what you want to hear.
Richard: Boy, we wanted to hug that doctor.
Linda: The other side of that coin is we also have a grandchild who’s born with a syndrome called Bardet-Biedl syndrome and is a very rare genetic disease or syndrome and she is going blind and she is overweight because she doesn’t have leptin and her pituitary tells her she’s full and she’s always hungry and that is not going to go away.
Richard: But these, I don’t even know whether to call them setbacks. They’re part of life and you learn from them like you were saying, Steve. You know, one reason we were excited to do this particular podcast with you is because we know your audience is pretty worldwide and pretty sophisticated and pretty type A, and you know, our family is like that and the more that is, the more worries you sometimes have. We’re spread all over. We’ve got a son in Zurich and a little family there. We’ve got one in London. We’ve got one in Maui and Hawaii. We’re traveling all the time just to keep up with all of them, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. You know life is complicated but that’s what makes it fun.
Steve: It is, and you know, hard times help you appreciate the good times. Well, listen, let’s shift our discussion to these wonderful books. The two books are; Being a Proactive Grandfather, that was written by Rick and Linda’s is Grandmothering. So, can you share with us some of the key parts of each one of these books respectively? Maybe we could start with Linda. Some of the things that really stand out for you and I just really love some of these parts so we’ll let you take the lead and then I may have some specific questions on a couple of these and then Rick why don’t you go next.
Richard: That’ll be good. That’s our usual order of things, Linda first.
Linda: Steve, thank you so much for asking and what a friend. I mean, he ran around trying to find this book at bookstores and it has been sold out at so many places. You’re such a dear to do that but now we’re loaded on Amazon and Costco in the West and lots of Deseret books. So, it really was a labor of love to do this because mostly I wanted my children to have this history of grandmothering but also, just to share some fun ideas. I do a Grammy camp with the kids every summer and it’s been so fun. I divide them up into small groups.
Last year, we did an ancestor project where we had each of the kids actually do research on an ancestor and become that ancestor that day. We call it the ancestor museum. They got up and told all about their life and so on. Luckily, I grew up over in Bear Lake and we’re close to the cemetery and we could go over and actually stand by the graves and these kids could tell about their lives and so on. It was really fun, but I mean, that’s just one little glimpse.
But also there are a lot of hard times with grandmothering. It’s not just all delight because there are just hard things that happen. We’ve mentioned some earlier. There’s some on that, there’s some on dealing with kids and entitlement which we worry about with grandchildren. There’s something about keeping your mouth closed. I talk about putting duct tape over Richard’s mouth rather than saying something that is not appropriate, and because it’s a whole new world, you have to have a whole new direction that you change to when you are grandmothering.
Richard: Just one little insert on your book Linda because you’re a little modest about it, but this book’s going nuts Steve. I mean, it’s sold out everywhere and its publisher called us the other day and said, “It’s the best-selling book they’ve published in the last year.” But one reason I think your book is so good, Linda, is that it makes a clear differentiation that one of the things grandparents have to be sure they do is have some good talks with their children. In other words, with the parents of these grandkids because there’s two big mistakes you point out that grandmothers can make. One is to be too involved and to not let the kids who are the parents of these grandkids know what you’re doing and kind of run afoul. You got to let the parents know they’re in charge, they’re the stewards and you are there to help. The other thing, of course, that you point out is grandmas who just don’t get involved at all. So if you’re on either extreme of the spectrum you got to find the middle ground. It’s my favorite thing about your book.
Linda: Well, I did also gather a team of great creative grandmothers who’ve done some really fun things with their grandchildren in all walks of life. Some economically on the lower side and some on the higher side. It has been so fun to get these ideas in there because, you know, we haven’t experienced everything and I have loved having these ideas in this book. It isn’t just me.
Steve: Well, that’s a great idea. One of the ones that really stood out for me is in Chapter 7: The Grandmothers Who Gave Me Grit.
Linda: Oh, thank you for that. You know what, well, we actually have been learning about a study from Bruce Feiler. He’s a New York Times columnist who wrote a column called, Stories that Bind Us. His bottom line is, the more your children and grandchildren know about your family stories, your history of you and also of the parents and also the great-grandparents and ancestors, the more they know, the more resilience they have.
Richard: The more grit they’ll develop.
Linda: They develop grit because they see that they’re related and they think, you know what, if this person can do this, I’m related to her and I can do this hard thing.
Richard: I’ve got her blood in my veins.
Steve: It’s in the DNA.
Richard: Yeah, that’s a powerful one.
Linda: It really is.
Richard: And grit is what all parents want for their kids and is certainly what all of us grandparents hope for our grandkids.
Linda: What you are referring to Steve, is that I wrote six of my grandmother’s stories, magnificent stories. But, my friend said, “No one will read it if it’s more than 400 words. Just trust me on that.” So, I got it down to 400 words of just the most amazing things that these people, they were not famous, they did not do big, amazing things, they did small things with great passion and grit and courage that changed my life just doing that.
Steve: Well, wonderful. Okay, Rick, let’s take a shot on your book.
Richard: Well, again, mine is bullet points because I know grandpas and the reason I called it, Being a Proactive Grandpa, is I wanted to write not so much about what grandfathers should do, I wanted to write about what grandfathers should be. So for example, be your grandkids cheerleader. Be the one that cheers them on, not only by going to their events but by just encouraging them and complimenting them. You know, parents have to be the disciplinarians and parents have to be the ones who get them here and there and take them to their lessons and so on. A grandparent has the luxury of just being their biggest fan, and kids need that. They need a kind of love that’s just unconditional and total and even irrational. I mean, most of us think our grandkids are the greatest and we need to let them know that.
Then there’s a chapter on being their champion, which means supporting them. Finding ways where they may need your help to get in a certain club or to pay the dues of something they’re doing. Be, kind of, their resource, their champion. These kind of go progressively as kids get older. Be their consultant. Be the one who is not their manager. See, that’s the interesting thing in business terms. The parents are the managers but the grandparents have the luxury, especially the grandpas I think, of being the consultants. What’s the difference? A manager will, sort of, tell you what your goal should be and how you should behave and what you should do. What does a good consultant do? He asks a lot of questions, finds out what your goals are, figures out how he can help you with the things you want to do. And a good grandpa can be that kind of a consultant.
So, it’s basically just one chapter after another on what you want to try to be to your grandkids and it’s a delight for me to think about this because frankly, I have more fun…I mean, you say, “What do you do for your grandkids?” You also have to say, “What do they do for me?” I have more fun, I laugh more, I have more good times when I’m around my grandkids than any other place. Maybe it’s because I’m still a kid at heart, but I’m grateful for my grandkids. They’re the ones that keep me young.
Linda: Well, he’s a little bit crazy to start out with, but the crazy really comes out when he’s with his grandchildren and they love that. In fact, I have to say, when we go to our children’s houses, they all give me these big hugs and their first question is, “Where’s grandfather?”
Richard: That’s because they know I’m going to give them candy or something.
Linda: No, you’re so fun.
Steve: That’s great. Well, at the bottom of each book, they have a similar message but it’s stated differently. I’m just going to share it from Rick’s book, it’s Being a Proactive Grandfather, How to Make a Difference. At the bottom of Linda’s book, Grandmothering, The Secrets to Making a Difference while Having the Time of Your Life. So, those are great. I was just reflecting on this and these books are totally inspiring. I reflected on my role as a grandfather. We don’t have very many grandkids. We’re just like compared. We don’t compare right.
Linda: But you have some.
Richard: You’re in a major league.
Linda: Where are you Steve? What number is yours?
Steve: Number 19 is coming in August.
Richard: Oh, listen. You’re in the top 1% of all grandparents in the world, man.
Steve: But I was thinking about my grandpa and the difference that he made in my life. He’s a great guy. I’ve been thinking about this subject and right in this stand, you know, grandpa’s grandpa and I was just a young kid like fifteen and a half or close to 16. I knew him and loved him and one day, he said, “You know, I’ve got this friend,” and I’d been mowing lawns and I’d worked for an Italian restaurant and worked for the Vallejo garbage company in northern San Francisco area. So it’s kind of industrious and he said, “I’ve got this friend that’s a real estate broker and I think he would be a great guy to work for, so I’d like to introduce you.” So I said, “Well, that sounds wonderful.”
So he introduced me to Dave Conger. Little did I know that that simple introduction would change my life forever. Forever and ever. I worked for him for a couple of years. He helped me start my first company at 16. He said, “You need to read this book and that book.” The Richest Man in Babylon and just this total transformation and he became a lifelong friend and a mentor. He was very, very successful in his own right and lived to be 92. I ended up speaking at his funeral in the San Francisco Bay area but this is what sometimes seems like a simple act, but that was my grandpa who did that.
Richard: It’s so great how you give that illustration Steve because again one of the chapters in the grandpa book, the grandfathering book, is being a facilitator. Being someone who opens doors for them. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, you’re not giving your kid an unfair advantage when you introduce him to someone that you think would be good for him to know and just, kind of, looking out for his interests, trying to help be sure that he gets the opportunities that you’d like him to have. Even financial facilitation and this can be a tricky one because if you have some means, you don’t want to use that means in an unwise way that gives your grandkids an entitlement attitude or that makes them think they’ve got a safety net with good old grandpa or grandma who will bail them out. That’s the last thing you want to do. Though, in a wise way, it’s wonderful.
We use a lot of matching grants. We love this. We’ve taught all of our grandkids who are old enough to write, we’ve taught them how to write grant proposals and they’re always matching grants. So, like we got one the other day from a granddaughter. It was so sweet, it was written in grant language. It said, “I want to go on this trip to Spain with my Spanish class and here are the things I think I would learn.” And she itemizes them. She’s 14, so it was just a really cute list. “And here are the things that I will take home with me when I come back from France. And here’s the total cost. And, you know, I’ve been able to raise half of the money by my jobs that I do and I’m applying for a matching grant. That if you’ll match the money I’ve raised, I’ll be able to go on this trip.”
And the thought that went into that and the responsibility of saying, “I’ve raised half.” I mean, you can be the kind of resource that not only doesn’t entitle your grandkids, it makes them more industrious and more self-sufficient and it puts them over the hump on things. Plus I think any of our grandkids, Linda, if they ever need to get a job and they can’t find one, they can apply to be a grant writer for some agency because they all know how to do it.
Linda: Yeah, you know, there’s a lot of that in the grandmothering book too. I mean, one of the saddest things about families is they kind of drift apart. I think the grandparents’ job is really to keep this family going and to keep things together. There are so many things that come up and so and so is not speaking to so and so. We’ve heard this so many times, not only with feelings but also especially with money. But also, I think the reunions are so important to keep your family together and Richard mentioned our kids are flying all over the world but it’s our priority to get these kids together every summer and we do whatever it takes and there’s some details on that.
Richard: You’re being modest Linda. It’s one of my favorite chapters in Linda’s Grandmothering book is the family reunions because you can do so many things and you don’t have to be a wealthy person to do it. You’ve got ideas in there that range from camping to full-on compounds where people have reunions and grammy camps.
Linda: Or just having a book club, you know, to keep people engaged with the family. But also, with this modern day cyber world, there’s some exciting things that I was able to do with this book and that is, if you want to see what the family reunion looks like, I have a son who helped me to make it easy to just go to a .com at one word, it’s reunion2017.com and then you can just see. We have a daughter who has a wonderful, popular blog who has all the pictures there. If you want to see what gram camp looks like, if you want to see what a service project looks like in Mexico, over Christmas holidays, you can just go to that and it’s just pretty amazing.
Richard: Oh and recipes, Linda. Linda knows grandmas and there’s recipes in her book to feed a crowd. You can feed a whole town with some of your recipes.
Linda: No, actually, we do have somebody that was taking care of a huge group of young adults and she added her recipes. Anyway, that’s one thing grandmothers always worry about, but, boy, doing a book now is so different than it used to be because you have so much at your fingertips.
Steve: Okay, well good. Well, I’ve got to tell you now, these books are fun reads. They are inspirational. It gives this chuck full of ideas. I can’t believe time goes so fast but we are there at the limit.
Richard: Oh, boy.
Steve: So any final tips for grandfathers or grandmothering.
Richard: Well, I’m going to jump in and let Linda have the last word. I suggest that all you grandpas out there buy the book Grandmothering and give it your wives as a belated mother’s day gift because they will love you if you give them this book. I’d buy it on Amazon. It’s just the easiest. You put in Grandmothering on Amazon, boom, there’s Linda’s book.
Linda: Well, let me just close by saying, I think the key to grandparenting is unconditional love. We can love those kids, even the naughty ones we maybe love them more. It is such a great thing to just love those kids and let them know how much you love them and champion them as Richard said.
Steve: Well, thank you. Now, I have a private story here before we wrap up for our Becoming Your Best listeners. This is a becoming. It is something that we keep working on always. This will give us so many ideas. When I was really finishing up writing, Becoming Your Best, I put it into a manuscript and shared it with a group called the Inklings.
Richard: I love that group.
Steve: It’s a great group and I really Rick and Linda are the ones who have been key parts of that. They were gracious enough to invite us many years ago to be part of it. It’s formed after C.S. Lewis and his friends who had an Inkling group where they shared book ideas. This particular group of Inklings, we meet periodically. Has a Harvard connection but as I was getting ready into the very final editions, the title for Becoming Your Best was Be Your Best. And as we discuss this, this group said, the title needs to be Becoming Your Best because there’s a very big difference in those terms. So, first I thank Rick and Linda and Cathy Clayton and the Inklings for helping me see that. And that’s the name of the book, Becoming Your Best because that’s what we’re all working on, but that’s the very same thing is what is inspired here. That’s what we’re doing as grandparents and grandmothers.
Richard: That’s why your being.
Linda: No matter stage in life you are, you are becoming a grandparent at some stage. Thank you, for that story.
Richard: My thought’s the same, Steve, because the grandfathering book “Being”, “Becoming”, those are the keywords.
Steve: I’ll say. Okay, well how can people learn more about what you’re doing? I mean, you’ve said it a little bit. Let’s just wrap up that way and then I’ll conclude.
Richard: Well, I would just send them to one main collecting website, Steve, valuesparenting.com, all strung together. Values, with an “s”, parenting.com, and that’ll give people a pretty good overview of everything we’re doing and then for these grandparenting books, jump right on Amazon and they can get it to you fast.
Steve: Well, great.
Linda: Thank you so much, Steve. What a pleasure, what a friend.
Steve: Well, thank you. It’s been a delight to Rick and Linda for being a part of the show today. What an amazing time we’ve had. We wish you the best as you continue to make a huge difference in the world, and to all of our listeners, never forget, you too are making a difference every single day of your life. I’m Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day.