Being a grandparent has many advantages including license to spoil, then returning the little darlings to their parents, sleeping through those 2 AM feedings, avoiding their sicknesses, and not having to referee daily conflicts over which shoes they should wear.
But being a grandparent has deeper advantages as well. Grandparents are perched high on the tree of wisdom, looking down with a proper perspective, and the view is wonderful.
Do we have to wait until we are grandparents to gain wisdom and perspective? I believe that we can capture a little of those golden years right now, during the Bronze Age of parenting infants, toddlers, children, and teens. The key is stepping back and seeing our children and each situation from a different point of view– as someone with age, patience, and good humor.
My daughter calls this the “grandma version” of ourselves. She says that in times of turmoil, anger, or despair, we should ask: “What would the grandma version of myself do?” Then, she advises to take a step back mentally and emotionally and to objectively look at the situation through a pair of twinkling eyes surrounded by wrinkles (and maybe a pair of thick glasses).
The “grandma version” of ourselves reminds us of the things that matter most. This version reminds us that (as one grandma told me on a day when I was feeling despondent), “Everything will be all right.” Grandmas and grandpas love and then love some more, no matter the child or situation. They never give up hope that everyone and everything will be all right.
Looking back on her parenting years, one grandma said these wise words:
“Having become a grandparent I’ve gained a new perspective on parenting that I wish I would have had during [an earlier] stage of life. And that is, ‘Don’t stress the small stuff.’ If your daughter wants to wear a tutu to church, let her wear it to church! It’s not a big deal. I remember someone telling me, ‘Is this going to matter in five years?’ and it really left an impression on me. I learned to realize that the relationship I have with my child is more important than so many of the things I was choosing to get in conflicts over.”
It’s hard to be the “grandma version” when it’s the Meltdown Hour of the day, dinner’s not ready, piles of laundry are strewn all over the house, and siblings are fighting. When we are under stress, it’s not easy to take a step back, but it is important to try.
Think: what will really matter in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? When you are about to lose it, walk away, breathe deeply, count to 100, and eat chocolate (just kidding about the chocolate…sort of). Then, imagine what you want your children to say about you to their children, when you are the grandparent. What kind of memories will they have of you? Will you be the mom with a temper or the mom with a sense of humor? The mom who yelled or the mom who laughed?
One way we can summon that older, wiser version of ourselves is through journaling or photography. When your toddler has taken your favorite tube of lipstick and “painted” you a pretty picture on your bedspread, step back, and grab your camera. Through that “lens,” we envision a grandma looking, laughing, and sharing this story in future years. Writing down this frustrating/funny/cute(!) experience in a journal will help capture emotions in a healthy way.
Being the “grandma version” should remind us to slow down and enjoy family; to be assured that everything will be all right; to be patient, kind, and sprinkle life with good humor; to remember what matters most and to let go of what doesn’t; to never give up; and finally, to love and love some more.
I can wait a few years for the white hair, but I’m working to embrace many aspects of my grandma-to-be self right now.
QUESTION: What would you do if you were the “grandma version” of yourself?
CHALLENGE: In moments of frustration, take a step back emotionally and physically and put on your “grandma” glasses. Try to see the situation through her eyes. Then, after seeing more clearly, proceed with patience and good humor.
Image from Microsoft Office Images with graphics by Julie.