My mother is a saint. It’s entirely fitting that her name is Theresa. Mother Theresa…..
No mother is perfect. I certainly am not. Even my mother wasn’t perfect when I was growing up. But I call her a saint now because she’s been a grandmother for eighteen years and if you know anything about grandmothers, you know that they make everything right — in the toddler years, the teenage years and all the years in between.
Grandparents have the unique ability to connect with their grandchildren in ways that parents simply cannot. Parents encourage and support their children. Grandparents encourage, support, cheer, console, spoil, indulge and brag. When my kids were little, their grandmothers would sit through four-hour-long recitals to see their granddaughter’s 2 minute act. Their grandfathers would sit on the cold metal bleachers at little league baseball games that went on and on …. and on. These days, their grandparents show up for band and choral presentations, drama productions, hockey games, and prom pictures. My kids look for them and are reassured by their presence.
They say that parents should never be their children’s ” friends”. Instead, experts say, parents should provide discipline and structure to their children’s lives so they can learn respect, responsibility and the difference between right and wrong. Parents are supposed to enforce rules that are often very unpopular with their children. Do your chores. Do your homework. Go to bed. These days, I can be pretty unpopular with my teens. Where will you be? Who is going? You should put some of that money in the bank. No, you can’t do this/go there/have that. Nag, nag, nag. I do it even though I cringe at the way I sound, because this is my way of guiding them. I’m sure there is a more relaxed method of parenting, but I haven’t managed to adopt it yet. My mother had a similar parenting style.
My mother, who sometimes wanted to pull her hair out over the obnoxious things my siblings and I said and did in our youth, now sighs — even laughs — when these childhood shenanigans are recalled. Like the time when a woman living at the other end of our street phoned my parents to report that my brother and his friends had been prank calling her for a long time and it needed to stop. These situations were anything but funny to my parents back in the day. Now they are sources of entertainment for all, including Gram. What happened?
Time heals all wounds.
Grandparents are simply parents who have softened over time. I’ve heard it said that grandparents have earned the right to be doting, silly and fun with their grandchildren. I’m sure I will soften, too, when I am a grandmother many years from now. In the meantime, I call my mother a saint because she makes my life with teenagers easier. And she makes life for my teenagers special. If your kids are lucky enough to have grandparents who are still living, I have this piece of advice: Cherish those grandparents! Consider the perks to this special bond:
1. Been there, done that. Grandparents have raised kids of their own. So, something that infuriates or worries a parent will not have the same affect on a grandparent. They survived and they know that we will too.
2. Quality time with grandchildren makes up for real or imagined parenting mistakes. Parents who are too strict, too serious or too tired to kick back and have fun with their kids often become silly, fun-loving, easy-going grandparents. It’s as if they embrace getting a second chance to be cool.
3. Grandparents tend to be heavy on praise and stingy with criticism. Sincere praise and encouragement are great for kids and grandparents have plenty of it, but occasionally some constructive criticism is helpful, too (and somehow doesn’t sound like nagging). A mother’s preference for the less revealing prom dresses might elicit eye-rolling from her teen but a grandmother’s similar opinion is given lots of consideration by her granddaughter. Funny how that works.
4. Grandparents remind grandchildren that parents are human. Teenagers sometimes forget that their parents want the best for them. Parents are imperfect with sometimes imperfect parenting styles. Parents get tired and grouchy but they aren’t trying to make life harder for their kids. They just want their kids to be responsible and to think of others, not just themselves. I’ve heard my mother telling her grandchildren to give their mother (me) a break and help out a bit more. (I like that).
5. Grandparents bring out compassion in grandchildren. The love of a grandparent is enduring and even strengthens with time. The cruel reality of time passing is that the aging process accompanies it. My kids lost their beloved grandfather to cancer nearly three years ago. It was a huge loss to us all but I think it served as a reminder to them that grandparents are here for a relatively short part of their lives. Thankfully, they have Gram and there other grandparents as well. I believe the love of a grandparent is equal to the love and compassion that is returned by a grandchild. I witnessed this love en route to California via airplane when my 12-year old held her grandmother’s hand. The simple gesture was meant to comfort Gram who experienced excruciating ear pain when the plane was landing. That’s love.
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On a recent Saturday morning I woke around 7:30 to the sound of a lively, although muffled conversation. My husband was sleeping soundly next to me. Could one of my teenagers be awake so early on the weekend when “sleeping in” was a possibility? Listening carefully, it became clear to me that my 18-year old was on the phone with Gram. In between a lot of giggling, she was trying to describe Olaf, the silly snowman from the movie Frozen.
When I questioned her about this, she replied that she missed her grandmother and hadn’t spoken to her or spent time with her in over a week. My two daughters, 18 and 12, drove to Gram’s house later that morning to watch Frozen with her. Was I baffled? Jealous? Not at all. A better word is grateful.