Thanks, Grammy

Heart, Love, Discussion, Difference, RelationshipMy 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.

Street Sign, Note, Direction, Point Of View, Sensation

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.*

Bald Eagle, Soaring, Bird, Raptor, Flight, Nature, BaldIn 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!)

 

 

“A Long Line of… Xs and Ys?” Hereditary Vs Genetic

Poker, Playing, King, Ace, Game, Gambling, Card, HeartsIt takes a lot of introspection and a lot of ego-busting, but take a good, realistic, look at your kids.  What are they like?  Polite?  Kind?  Social?  Withdrawn?  Unruly?  Nasty?  Patient?  Short-tempered?  Flexible?  Anxious?

How did they get that way?  Most likely, it was from you.  Either from Nature (biologically) or Nurture (environmentally).  Sometimes, that line between the genes and the surroundings can get very perforated.

Many behaviors are hereditary… but that doesn’t mean it’s DNA related.  Let me explain…

First off, I must put a disclaimer: I am not a scientist.  But that does not mean what I am about to say is untrue.  In fact, I may be a very good person to be talking about the topic, since I can discuss it in very simple terms and not get too technical.  And if there are any scientists out there reading this post, by all means, back me up!

Some traits people have are genetic- passed down in DNA from the biological parents.  Babies are born that way.  Eye color, general body size, certain diseases or conditions like Downs Syndrome or cystic fibrosis… all these conditions are present at birth and are out of the person’s control.  A child adopted into a different family will not change the fate of these characteristics.

Then, there are certain traits that are fostered into a child: a good work ethic, cleanliness, organization skills… they can be taught.  Any skills that can be learned are usually not present at birth.  Granted, I am oversimplifying here.  But let’s use something like the model for a healthy relationship as an example.

People will tend to pick a potential partner for themselves that is a lot like the dynamics they witnessed growing up because that was the model shown to them.  Even though it may not be a good example, people become attracted to it because it feels like home.  I’ve mentioned before that my parents had a dysfunctional relationship.  As a result, I picked very bad people to get involved with up until I was about 36 (the magical number of years where a child has now spent just as much time away from their familial influence).

So if you identify patterns in your life that are not necessarily medically linked to your parents, look at the patterns in THEIR lives… then your grandparents’ lives…  Chances are, something was passed down from generation to generation that was not genetic, yet you inherited those traits.

College is another good example.  If your parents went to college, chances are, you will too.  And if you came from working class people, you most likely will go into the trade or family business or your parents.

But  there is no gene to my knowledge for picking a career or relationship.

Now that you can recognize that distinction, I think it’s important not to give too much credit to the gene pool.  Yes, you do get what you get by the roll of the Xs and Ys…  However, its crucial to admit that a lot of who we are is due to our environment.

True, science may have found certain genes LINKED to obesity or alcoholism.  However, look at the lifestyles the parents lead.  Parents who buy healthy food and model an active lifestyle usually do not have overweight kids.  I may have a gene linked to alcohol abuse, but if my parents never drank, that switch may never get turned on…  Conversely, I may have the intellectual potential to have a very high IQ, but if my parents never read to me or deprived me of stimulation at an early age, I will never fully reach my potential.

(I probably just stepped in it… right. about. now.)

My point is to be very careful how you view the mentality of “A chip off the old block” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  If it’s out of pride, then by all means, take credit that you’ve got a “Mini Me.”

But if you are under the illusion that your child is destined to suffer the same fate as you, make the 153Promise to challenge that view.  Is your child bad at math because of some genetic aversion to numbers, or did they pick it up because they asked you for help and you said, “I’ve never been good at it, either.”

Is your child fated to be anxious because you were diagnosed with a genetic disorder, or is it that they learned from you that the world is scary because you are anxious… and so was your mother or father…  Or maybe you yell at them a lot, so they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop… Or both.

Make the 153Promise to see what “long line of” whatever your family comes from, and examine WHY you think that is.  If in doubt, ask your family doctor and if they don’t know, ask them for the name of a geneticist to learn whether or not you can change your child’s pattern of behaviors.

Give your children every opportunity to succeed, regardless of their chromosomes.

You may not be able to control the cards they were dealt, but you can help them play their hand to the best of their advantage.  And if you were never taught those skills, seek out someone who knows better than you.  Go or your child’s guidance counselor or pediatrician for support.

What “Long Line” do you want your children to come from???