For 2020, why not set some “New Year’s Resolutions” as a grandma?
As we come to the end of 2019 and start planning for the New Year, I encourage you to reflect on how your life unfolded this year, especially in the context of your role as a grandma. What brought you the greatest joy? What do you wish you could do-over? Who and what are you grateful for?
I offer five of my own resolutions and five from Barbara Graham, my friend, and author/grandma.
Take care of yourself. If you’re like most grandmas, life revolves around your precious grandchildren and helping your children any way you can, sometimes at the sacrifice of your own care. Remember the old adage to put on your own oxygen mask before the child sitting next to you. If you don’t replenish yourself, you won’t be of benefit to anyone else. Whether you soak in a bath, take a walk in the woods, read a good book, have coffee with a friend or binge-watch your favorite show, make sure you take some time for yourself.
Show empathy. The most important lesson I’ve learned in my 16 years as a grandma is to have empathy for our grandchildren’s parents. Pay attention to and verbally 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. Just saying “that must be hard for you” can be a magical phrase to a stressed-out mom or dad.
Learn something new. It will make you more interesting and keep your brain sharp. It’s especially good if you can learn something that your grandchild will be interested in too, for example, technology or social media.
Find ways to build mutual respect and trust. This is the foundation of all satisfying relationships and takes conscious effort. Adult children have the right to make their own decisions and be who they are. They’re leading their own lives and sometimes we just have to swallow it and respect who they are without judgment or comment. It doesn’t mean we have to agree or embrace their way. We have to trust them to know what they’re doing. And they owe us the same respect. If we make an effort in that direction, we’ll all have a better time together and a lot more fun. It will keep life surprising and interesting and keep our minds open.
Be honest, kind and say you’re sorry when you’ve made a mistake. Think through your feelings before you express them. Remember that words can have a lasting impact and we want them to be positive. When you’ve made a mistake, offer a sincere apology: “I’m truly sorry; I regret what I said or did and I won’t do it again. I understand you need time to think about it.”
Barbara Graham’s 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 proposed 5 New Year’s Resolutions based on her own shortcomings.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…”