My relationship with my mother is strained. Suffice it to say we navigate life with very different operating systems that clash every time they interface.
My grandparents and I, (her parents), have never clashed.
“You don’t know them like I do,” she says. A lot.
True- I don’t. The dynamics of Grammy and Grandpop and me are different; they didn’t raise me. They are people I visited every Sunday after church. Then, once I got older, I would choose to see them independent of my parents.
I could write a whole book about this narrative, but the reason I even mention them is that at 89, it looks like my grandmother will not be around much longer. Around October, doctors found something on a chest X-ray they didn’t like, but she refused diagnostic tests. They told me that their best guess was that she had about six months to live. She was put on hospice and this week, she started falling and she’s been bed-ridden and on morphine.
I took off a day from school on Thursday to essentially say goodbye and give my input on funeral arrangements. (I said I’d like to put together a PowerPoint to loop during the viewing and I’ll compose a poem to be put in the funeral program.)
Because I have peace with Grammy, I’m able to deal with this dying ordeal pretty well, I think. But my mother? It’s taking everything in me to stay patient and kind as she manages to grapple with the reality that the woman she’s been complaining about all these years is leaving.
I’ve come to realize that validating someone’s opinion is essential to any relationship. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them; you only need to let them know that you understand their feelings. Understand (v)- to perceive the intended meaning. So when I understand that my mother thinks a certain way — and I allow her to have that opinion — then I have attempted to validate her feelings. I try to be very clear that I while I understand how she feels about Grammy and Grandpop, that is not my truth… and I’d really appreciate if she’d allow me to have mine.
I’ve been suggesting to my mother that she make her own peace with her parents now so she can have peace once they are gone. I know she’s done a lot for them out of duty, obligation and guilt so she can have a “free conscience” regarding their care. That may be nice so she has no regrets regarding what SHE has done or failed to do. However that doesn’t mean she has resolved the issues she has with what she thinks they have done to her.
I’ve told her that I just want her to be happy. “Well, maybe I think I don’t deserve to be happy,” is her response.
There it is. I can’t compete with that mentality. So I take a step back and concern myself with my own happiness and fostering happiness in my own children.
Granted, you can’t “make” someone happy- but you can treat them in a way so they learn that you think they are deserving of happiness. And you can model positive behaviors that foster self-care results in your own happiness.
Grandparent are synonymous with giving, and the most recent gift my grandmother gave me from her deathbed was the lesson in validation and gracefully understanding opinions that are different from my own.*
In the spirit of my grandmother living a full life, I’m going to pass along that lesson in this post, so it my live on after I get the word that Grammy is gone from this Earth.
Make it your 153Promise today to: model the ability to make yourself happy; validate others by showing them you understand their opinion, even if yours is different… It avoids conflict and can sustain peace… Make the 153Promise by telling people close to you that you want their happiness, too, and foster an atmosphere where they feel free to pursue their happiness.
*(The irony is that my father — her son-in-law — and my grandparents would clash all the time… What’s in common? My mother… again- another book!)