What are your “New Year’s Resolutions” as a grandma?
As we come to the end of 2015 and start planning for the New Year, I automatically start reflecting on how my life unfolded this year. I even have a ritual for it. For the past several decades, my husband and I celebrate New Year’s Eve by cooking a gourmet dinner for ourselves. Then we get out our calendars for this year, sit by the fireplace, and look back at the pages — reminiscing about the good times and the bad.
To complete the ritual we talk about the coming year and say a few things we would like to happen next year in the different areas of our lives. Some people might put these actions into the category of “New Year’s Resolutions.” I think of them more as goals or affirmations. Whatever you want to call them, I’m offering you an invitation to reflect on the past year, plan for the new one, and put it into the context of your role as a grandma.
I offer five of my own resolutions and five from my friend and author/grandma Barbara Graham.
1. Take care of your yourself. As a long-distance grandma, I’ve accumulated many “frequent traveler” miles in my grandma account this year. Twice monthly car trips to see my 2 older granddaughters (270 miles roundtrip) and bi-monthly plane rides to visit my youngest granddaughter (600 miles roundtrip.) In December I made 3 separate visits to my granddaughters with only a day in between each visit. I was completely exhausted when we finally dropped off our oldest two after their 4-day visit here. That’s when I realized the importance of taking care of myself — physically, mentally and spiritually. I treasure those visits and enjoy them more when I’m replenished myself.
2. Show empathy. The most important lesson I’ve learned in my 12 years of being a grandma is to have empathy for our grandchildren’s parents. Pay attention to and acknowledge their hard work. Appreciate them and try to understand all that they face as modern parents. They don’t want our advice or solutions; they want us to hear what they’re saying and feel what they’re experiencing.
3. Learn something new. It will make us more interesting and keep our brain sharp. It’s especially good if you can learn something that your grandchild will be interested in, for example, technology.
4. Find ways to build mutual respect and trust. This is the foundation of all satisfying relationships and takes conscious effort.
5. Be honest, kind and say you’re sorry. Think through your feelings before you express them. Remember that words can have a lasting impact and we want them to be positive.
Barbara Graham’s 5 Resolutions
Barbara Graham, author of Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother has a keen eye and a sharp, self-deprecating sense of humor. She wrote a column for Grandparents.com in which she proposed 5 New Year’s Resolutions based on her own shortcomings.
1. Forgive thyself. (When you start with yourself, it’s easier to forgive others.) Okay, so sue me, I’m a grandparent. I see things that make me fret and, sometimes, shudder. I hear things that make me toss and turn at night the same way, I’m sure, my own parents did while I was raising my son. But let’s face it – the grandparent brain is prone to analyzing and dissecting every move made by our offspring and their offspring. I’m certain that someday neuroscientists will map the grandparent brain and discover the exact region where this feverish activity takes place.
2. Disconnect your mind from your mouth. This is key, especially if you hope to spend more time with your grandchildren. The grandparent brain may analyze and dissect until the cows come home – in the privacy of its own skull. However, should any unsolicited advice, opinions, or judgments escape your lips and fly into the ears of your adult children or their spouses, beware!
3. Curb your insecurity and competitive urges. Just the other day, my son told me that I sounded like a 12-year-old and he was right. The “Other Grandmother” was visiting for two weeks and I panicked that I would be forgotten. I didn’t put it that way exactly, but he got the gist. Warning to self: Stop whining and acting like you’re in junior high school. There’s plenty of love to go around.
4. Don’t overspend. My husband is especially keen on this resolution. He’s afraid that if I don’t stifle my desire to present the little girls with every darling outfit, educational toy, and ridiculous, overpriced gizmo on the market, we’ll end up in the poorhouse or its modern-day equivalent. What’s more, in my heart of hearts I know that, in addition to pleasing the children, the showering of gifts also has something to do with Keeping Up With The Other Grandmother, and those pesky feelings of insecurity and competition.
5. Stop worrying so much and feel the love. This is a big one and it involves retraining that grandparent brain. For starters, I must remind myself that most children grow up just fine. My son is a wonderful human being and, mea culpa, his early years were anything but ideal. What’s more, he and his wife are loving, attentive parents, and their daughters, by any objective standard, are thriving. Most important, my worrying has no benefits for anyone – least of all myself. So, to paraphrase a Welsh proverb, I resolve to bask in the perfect love of my granddaughters – and to stop following in the footsteps of Grandpa Simpson, who once proclaimed, “The good Lord lets us grow old for a reason – to gain the wisdom to find fault with everything…”