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!)

 

 

Hop on the Bus Challenge

Diversity, Happy, People, Young, SmileDo you let your children ride the bus???

I’m going to sound like the ‘uphill both ways’ generation, but when I was my children and students’ ages, I DID take the bus.  Sometimes, I had to lug a giant bass clarinet or bassoon case for a good ten minute walk to the bus stop.  It built character. 

The ONLY time I got a ride to school was for a broken leg in 7th grade because navigating the crutches on those giant steps was just too much for me.

I remember being in junior high and having to take the shuttle bus to the high school in order to get a ride home on the activities bus.  Let me tell you, being a 12 year old riding with a senior football player was scary!  But it built character.

Back then, it was a more hands-off approach to parenting.  You trusted the school to do your job when you gave them your kids.  Part of that meant riding the bus to school.

When did that stop happening?

There are cameras on the bus now.  Kids have cell phones that can record things, if stuff hits the fan… so why is that busses — that are paid with local tax dollars — are half empty, and the drop off line gets longer and longer?

If it’s to protect/shelter your children from certain stuff, I can understand that mentality, but I am going to suggest that it’s slightly misguided.  Things that happen on the bus to NOT magically disappear in the school.  Plus, it’s under surveillance, so it’s actually a pretty safe environment.

And IF something goes down on the bus, it’s an opportunity to talk about it with your child.  Therefore, to NOT let them ride the bus is actually PREVENTING them with real-life learning experiences.

My daughter rides the bus every day she is at our house. (She lives at her dad’s half the time.)  Sometimes we talk about the kids who ride with her and how to deal with it.  If I didn’t allow her that experience, I’d be robbing her of that opportunity to learn those skills.

After all, it’s NOT going to get any easier out in the “Real World;” why not practice now?

Just a few months ago, we were watching a movie together.  It was a more “adult,” though appropriate, film.  A few “ripe” words were tossed into the air.  I looked over at her and apologized and asked her if she’d like to stop the movie.

“It’s nothing I haven’t already heard on the bus,” she said, wiser than her then 9 old self.

So we talked about words and language and how it is a reflection of your character… How the people in the movie were depicted and the associations with those words are also associated with the people using them.  It was a good chat.  That never would have happened if I was a “drop-off parent.”

In conclusion, I am going to throw out a “Bus Challenge” to you: if you do not currently allow your kids to take the bus, give them the heads up TONIGHT that next week, they are going to take the bus!  Make the 153Promise to love your child by giving them the opportunity to face a situation, talk about it with you, learn a lesson, and develop as a person.  Chances are, the more they protest, the more they need to do it…

It builds character.

 

Sondheim Was Right

When I was in high school, I discovered musicals.  My favorite at the time was Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim.  It’s a mash-up of several fairy tales, whereby they all have to go into the woods to get what they want.  (Symbolism, anybody?)

Toward the end of the work, a widower/baker begins to tell his fussing infant child the story of his mother, creating a legacy for his offspring.  The witch who was the antagonist throughout the plot stands off to the side, offering one of the main messages of the musical in the form of a haunting lullaby, warning:

     Careful the things you say;
     Children will listen.
     Careful the things you do;
     Children will see
     And learn.
     Children may not obey,
     But children will listen.
     Children will look to you
     For which way to turn-
     To learn what to be.
     Careful before you say:
     “Listen to me.”
     Children will listen…
I remember singing along with my tape (yes, I’m that old), in my bedroom and I loved that song for it’s bittersweetness.  Now that I’m a mother and have children of my own, I understand this song on a whole different level.
For me now, the message this song sends is that your sons and daughters will learn about the world through your words and actions.  What lessons do you want to send through how you act?
 The first understandings of how a relationship is supposed to function is from how you interact with your partner.  (At a young age, they cannot separate themselves from the situation; how you react with them teaches them more about the world; not interpersonal communication.)  Therefore, it is very important to model what a healthy, loving relationship looks and sounds like.
I was given the model of dysfunction.  When I was growing up, my parents argued all the time.  They were never affectionate.  I came to believe that the people who are highly involved in your life are also the ones who know you enough to hypercritical about you.  Hugging and kissing was only the stuff in movies and obviously not reality.  As a result, I sought out that same dysfunction I was used to seeing as a child.
Only now as I write this am I realizing that it took another 18  years away from my parents to totally relearn life lessons in how to attract and keep functional relationships.  I think I am not unique in this phenomenon whereby people turn a corner in their insight about their lives in their mid 30s- it’s because they have had as many years away from their family of origin to realize that their understanding of the world and the people in it comes from their childhood and is not necessarily Truth.
When your children experience second hand your relationship you have with their father, mother — biological or otherwise — you are really creating a certain “relationship radar” in your children.  So make the 153Promise to your husband, wife, partner or any other people your children come in contact with to model the type of relationship your children will have when they become old enough to have one of their own.
Children will listen, see, and learn.
Make their lessons happy .