Monday, August 28, 2017

Grandma No No

     
The two-year-old looked up at me as I dragged him away from the DVD player. He wasn’t happy.  “Grandma No-No,” he grumbled. I giggled at his pronouncement, but I could see why I had earned that moniker.
His intelligence, curiosity, and fearlessness – all good traits – kept me on my toes.
          He wanted to learn the how and the why of everything, but had to be redirected constantly.  If it was within his reach, he inspected it to learn its purpose.  The electrical socket and the DVD cabinet called to him only because it got a huge reaction from the adults. He saw no difference between his Super Hero toys and the expensive knick knacks on the coffee table. If it made a noise, tore at the mere touch, or bounced, it was his.  
He soon learned that his height kept him from reaching things grownups didn’t want him to have, so he taught himself to climb. I watched as he pulled cushions off couches or dragged chairs into position so he could mountain climb from one to the other. I let him do it only once so that I could prevent it from happening again. Just as he reached his prize, I plucked him away.  His anger soon appeased if I distracted him with the hundreds of books and toys he owned.  
When his circle of discovery expanded into other rooms, I followed him. I emptied the bottom cabinets in the kitchen and left only the pots, pans, and plastic ware he could turn into drums, hats, and building blocks. The bathroom door remained closed at all times for obvious reasons, but to make up for limiting his exploration of the terrain, I sat for hours on the floor with him playing with his toys and reading to him.   

My list of no-nos changed as he grew.  No food outside of the kitchen since milk or juice bottles might spill on the sofa or the carpet, and it took only once for him to catapult off his bed for me to rule on “no, no more jumping on the bed.”  I wasn’t trying to be a Mrs. Trunchbull. My no-nos were because I loved this fearless, little boy, and I worried about his safety.  I wanted to encourage his curiosity and intelligence, but I was also willing to gain a no-no reputation to ensure he got to share it with the world. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Letting Go; Emptying the Nest


          When my three were little and they got into mischief, I warned them they would one day stand in my shoes.
          Someone knocked a hole in the living room wall, another kicked a hole in the back of my brand-new recliner, all out of frustration because I held the line on discipline. They bucked curfews, skipped classes in school, and dated the very people I had warned them to avoid. Every time they gave me grief, I dealt out consequences.
          You would think I looked forward to the day they would reach legal age and they would fly out of the nest.  You would think I would relish my well-earned peace and quiet.
          But I didn’t.
          My many years as a middle school teacher made me an expert at adolescent psychology, so at the same time I was upset by their misbehavior and bad choices, I also celebrated their fight for independence. I recognized their tantrums, disobedience, and rebellion as normal phases.  They were learning to be independent.  They were testing limits. What better time than while they were still under my care and I could set them back on the right path?
          When it came time to let them go out into the world on their own, some went reluctantly.  The Mama Bird in me had to shove them out of the nest.  I would always be here if they needed me but they had to try their wings first. 
          I cried as they left, one by one, but they never saw that from me.  It would have been selfish and crippling if I had kept them to myself. When they were born, my strongest desire was to raise strong, independent, hardworking adults.  Men and women unafraid of what the world dished out to them. I am glad to see them married and raising their own children.

          And now as their own children reach adolescence, all I can do is smile at the grief their own kids are giving them. Ah, karma. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Importance of a Simple Thank You


One of my biggest peeves is not receiving a simple thank you for a gift given lovingly and willingly to another. 
Grandma asks a child what he wants for Christmas or his birthday and gets a long wish list.  After the child opens the present, he tosses it aside and grabs another without acknowledging or thanking her. The time, effort, and money spent in the process is treated inconsequential, a right and not a privilege.  
The following holiday, again the child does the same.  Grandma’s gift is lost among the many others.  No acknowledgement.  No thank you. 
If the outcome is the same whether the giver offers a present or not, then why bother?
I use the example of a grandchild, but my experience has been wide and varied. This incident has happened repeatedly to me with family and friends where a celebration requires a gift. 
What happened to the formal thank you note?   Why is it considered antiquated when the giving of gifts hasn’t gone out of style? We complain about the entitled generation, yet we teach (and accept) entitlement to our children.  How many of us write a thank you note to those who give us presents?
I do.  I send thank you’s to those who remember me at Christmas, my birthday, and other holidays.  When I forget to write a note, I make sure the giver knows personally how much I appreciated their kindness. I tell others about my gift and brag on the present and the giver. Yes, a gift should be given willingly with nothing expected in return, but shouldn’t appreciation and delight be acknowledged?

I have gotten wiser and meaner as I age. My memory is as sharp as ever. I will continue to acknowledge those who give me presents and who thank me in return for mine.  Their names will go on my “Nice” list, while the others, well, there is a reason it is called the “Naughty” list. Why bother if my gift means nothing to them? 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Happiness – A Simple Explanation


Scientists can prove “happiness” through brain scans, chemical secretions, even the subtle change in individual cells.  It has also been proven that one’s facial expression can affect one’s disposition.  The body anticipates “happiness” if one practices smiling.
I don’t need all that to know what makes me happy.
-       Bare toes on the beach, the feel of cold, wet sand soothing away the tiredness
-       A sunrise, its promise of a new day
-       A vibrant sunset, the accomplishment of that promise
-       Children’s laughter, especially giggles and squeals
-       The first sip of coffee in the morning
-       A drink of cold water flowing down a parched throat
-       A satisfying ending to a good story, be it a book, a tale, or a movie
-       A small, unexpected kindness
-       A loving, understanding partner, family, a good friend
-       A decadent dessert or a simple, crisp saltine cracker
-       A moving piece of art; music that stirs the soul
-       The perfect bubble
-       A butterfly, a dragonfly, bird in song
-       Warm, soft socks
-       A roof over my head, safety from the world
-       Food on the table
-       Fireworks
-       a hug, an embrace, a slow dance with the right person
-       knowing that you made a difference, fought the fight, left a legacy
-       the belief in God and in life after death; we are part of something larger than ourselves

Happiness – the reasons we live our lives to the fullest, relishing the simplest of things that matter.