Saturday, August 29, 2009

On Being a Grandma

Being Grandma to nineteen grandchildren (current count) is one of the most rewarding roles I’ve experienced so far in this journey called “Life”. Before that, of course, it was being Mom to seven children. One of my favorite sayings is “If we had known grandchildren were this much fun, we’d have had them first!” But then, the paradox is that if they had come first, they would’ve been the training ground for all the life lessons that laid the groundwork for the fun of being a grandparent.

Everyone has had a grandma, currently has one for themselves or their children, or is a grandma. The dictionary definition of the word doesn’t begin to describe ‘who or what’ a grandma really is: NOUN 1. The mother of one’s father or mother. I believe a more accurate description would include words like “gracious, wise, fun, clever, refined, loving, nurturing, supportive, flexible, compassionate and encouraging.” She is an incredible woman who has obviously had experience in raising children, more likely than not, by the trial and error method, including both parent and child personal growth and development. She knows how to make even the most boring or difficult tasks fun and enjoyable, while at the same time maintaining order and control of the situation at hand. And, her expertise in emotion management can turn a pout into a smile on the face of any child, with an almost magical atmosphere of peace and contentment. When most people think of “Grandma”, memories of wonderful times surface and spill forth from within.

I became a grandmother while in my thirties, and I was still raising my younger children as the older ones were busy multiplying, So, I continued my on-the-job training as a parent as well as learning to be a grandmother. As we mature over the years, I notice that life-priorities change and we adjust our thinking and methods during this process. Of course, this created quite a challenge for me, in that my younger children noticed that the grandchildren would ‘get away with’ things I had been rather adamant about when they were ‘that age’! Eating what was put on your plate (and all of it at that!) gave way to a more relaxed view of at least giving each new taste a try before you decide whether you like it or not. Life began to come down to the bare values – of what really is important - before making a hard and fast rule about something.

Is eating all your vegetables as important as feeling safe in trying new things with the confidence that you are able to decide for yourself whether or not you will like it; and whether or not you will choose to experience it again? Is it better to obey for the sake of the rule, or for the value of the goal? Does every mistake need a punishment, or is it better to sometimes allow the natural consequences of our actions be the teacher? As a grandma I have learned it is much better to build confidence, than demand conformity, to work together for a common goal rather than dictate, and to allow room for failure, as being free to learn from our errors is part of the only true road to success in life!

Although we now live in a fast paced, highly technological, multi-media world, we can still utilize the same skills past grandmas have used in order to make a difference in the lives of their grandchildren. At home, children have their fill of electronic devices and games, but when they come to “Grandma’s House” life takes on a whole new perspective – one of personal interaction. If it’s to be done, it’s to be done together! And, one of the basics a grandmother knows is that children learn a whole lot more from what we do, rather than from what we say! We live it – they learn it! That children learn by example has become second nature to a grandma in everything she does. And, amazingly, not only does this affect her grandchildren, but her now grown children as well.