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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Lately I’ve been thinking about grandchildren.

I have to start by saying I’m really not in any hurry. While it’s true I know lots of people who are younger than I am and answering to Grandma, I’m not anxious to join their ranks.

Really. I’m not.

The truth is all my children have moved out of their teens into their 20s. My husband and I were blessed with three great kids, who share a fine sense of responsibility and a good work ethic, but I still don’t see them as adults. Why should I?

They have years and years ahead of mortgages and car payments and worrying about the future. They should enjoy their young adult status as long as possible and have all the fun they can while they can.

Once a young adult becomes a parent, most lose that young adult status. While some people become full-fledged adults without ever being parents, and occasionally you run into a parent who just never grew up, for most people that threshold between young adult and real adult comes with the responsibilities of a new generation.

So while my own kids are enjoying their young adult status, I have some time to think about the grandmother I may become. Someday. No hurry.

Our family has always been grandparent deficient. I only remember my mother’s father well. The only memory I have of my mother’s mother is one she would probably hate. I must have been about 6 years old that Easter when my mother sent me next door to my grandparents’ house to show off my new spring outfit. I ran into the house unannounced and directly into my grandmother as she stepped out of the shower. I remember her trying, unsuccessfully, to cover herself up. She died unexpectedly not long after that Easter.

But my grandfather was a great grandparent. I remember him fixing my bike and paying me to pull dandelions in his yard when I needed money for candy. He was at all our special occasions, even when we grew into bored teenagers who didn’t value his presence. I hope he understood that deep down inside, we loved him.

My own children never knew either of their grandfathers, but they did have two wonderful grandmothers, who often seemed to visit at the same time. Many of our Christmas photos feature a grandmother on either side. Sadly, we lost both of them in recent years.

I want to be the type of grandmother my mother was, but I wouldn’t want to have to do it long distance the way she did. Of course, it wasn’t her fault that we kept moving away from her.

Even when we lived on opposite sides of the country, my mother always knew what activities my kids were involved in. She always seemed happy to get the endless dance and baseball pictures, although she finally asked me to stop sending them in frames when her bookcase was overflowing.

When she came to visit she always tried to help. When our youngest was born, it was Grandma who flew across the country to drive the oldest to dance lessons. But they never made it to dance lessons. Grandma got lost and ended up on the other side of Fort Wayne, Ind. Eventually we got her back.

The kids probably never knew how much Grandma was on their side. I still have a long, thoughtful letter she wrote in reply to my complaints about our teenager driving us crazy. Her advice: “Don’t let the teenage turmoil ruin your relationship. Just keep loving your child and she’ll return to you as a young adult.”

Grandma was right, of course.

When my kids are ready, I want to be the type of grandmother who takes the kids for a few days so the parents can get away.

I want to spoil my grandchildren a little bit and then lecture their parents about spoiling them. I want to go back to the Fisher Price aisle at Walmart and buy some more Little People toys and help another generation push legless people around in tiny cars.

Even though I’m really not in a hurry to have grandchildren, I really can’t wait.

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Turning my home videos into DVD’s has been a big project. As usual, I find myself wishing for a better technology background. Of course, back when I was in school picking up background, we didn’t even have VHS. Home movies were on film that was projected reel to reel. And computers were mammoth things in school offices, not something you’d be able to play with at home. But this isn’t a blog about my age or technology. I wanted to write about the home movies.
I had a few surprises when I started really watching those tapes I made about 20 years ago. It’s funny the things you forget.
I totally remembered that my kids were very cute toddlers, but I had forgotten the dimples that made the middle child’s smile so infectious. Even now, twenty years later, I find myself smiling back at him every time he turns towards the camera. Of course he was smiling every time he turned towards the camera. That’s just the kind of kid he was.
His older sister was always firmly in control of everything except her own hair. She ordered her brother to do her bidding as her blond curls bounced around her face. When she was little, we kept her hair short and let it wave and curl on its own. But during the middle school years, when she insisted on growing her hair long like all her friends, it got a little out of control. But she wouldn’t listen to my advice to cut it.
When I saw the first few shots of our youngest daughter, I was amazed that she was the only one of the three who had hair as an infant. And her hair wasn’t anywhere near as blond as it is now. Isn’t that strange? She looks more like her sister now than she did back then.
But I think I was most surprised at myself. Was I really that skinny in between baby two and baby three? I sure wasn’t after baby three! And I was pretty confident as I interacted with the kids and their friends. Maybe my mother was right. I should have been a preschool teacher!
My mother and mother-in-law where frequent guest stars in our home videos which were mostly shot at family events. When you see them there with the kids, it’s impossible to believe that they’re both gone.
There are several birthdays on those old tapes and so far I’ve run across two long sequences of piñata bashing. I mean really long sequences. You would think I would’ve learned from the first time – when it took so long to break the homemade piñata. On that tape you can hear one of the mothers pleading with her son to hit it harder because they really have to leave. I started my young party guests out with plastic hammers and no blindfolds, but as they continued to bash without results, I passed out wooden spoons. I know I must have considered using a baseball bat at some point, but they were doing more damage to each other than to the piñata so I held back.
Then a few years later the same thing happened at completely different birthday party. Again, you can hear the parents begging their children to hit it harder. Everyone was ready to go home.
I’m glad I videoed the destruction of my living room after hosting a “Cabbage Patch Party” for eight kindergarteners. I remember almost panicking when the last mother dropped off the last of the six year olds and didn’t stay to help. Why did I think I could wrangle eight little girls, a four year old boy, and their Cabbage Patch babies without assistance? I’m pretty sure we all survived and eventually I must have put my living room back together or else we just moved. I’m not sure…
If I had it to do all over again, I’d shoot a lot more video of everyday things. We have one sequence on the front lawn of the house in Heber Springs. I know I shot it because we were getting ready to move and I’m glad to have those images because we loved that house. I’m just sorry I didn’t video tape our first boat which was also left behind in that move. Of course, in those days we didn’t own a video camera.
For years we used a camera borrowed from his work to shoot those Christmases, birthdays and the new baby. For the dance recitals, we simply copied other people’s videos. Even twenty years later, it’s easy to identify the child whose parents let us copy their tape. She’s the one in the center of the frame, waving to the camera. Our little dancer is somewhere in back and you have to watch carefully to glimpse her. But I’m happy to have even the glimpse, because our oldest child in the little red tutu was the cutest dancer ever to grace the stage in Heber Springs Elementary School!

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We won’t have to have Thanksgiving next year because we had two this year. That is – two complete Thanksgiving dinners with two turkeys, one ham, and more side dishes than would fit in the refrigerator. You would think I like Thanksgiving or something. Actually, it’s never been my favorite holiday.
To me Thanksgiving means a day of cooking and then weeks of guilt. There’s little about the traditional dinner that fits into a healthy eating plan and don’t even think about substituting actual healthy food because the family would never stand for it. This year my husband did sacrifice the traditional green bean casserole – the one with cream of mushroom soup and fried onion-like rings, but not willingly. I just told him to forget it when our guests offered to bring both broccoli and asparagus. Since we had three different kinds of potatoes (mashed, mashed with garlic and mashed sweet potatoes), two green vegetables seemed reasonable.
Of course we had stuffing and it had both sausage and butter mixed in with more bread than I’ve eaten in the last year. And we left the turkey fryer in the garage because some people in the family don’t believe the stuffing tastes as good if it’s not actually stuffed into a roasted turkey.
So although my Thanksgiving dinners were labor intensive, they’re weren’t the least bit creative and they were completely not healthy.
My question is why? But a better question is “why twice?”
It’s the oldest daughter, of course. When she told us she wasn’t going to be home on Thursday and suggested we postpone Thanksgiving to Saturday, I agreed, of course. When one of your kids is driving six hours just to see you, how can you say no? But that left a big, blank space on Thursday with the youngest home from college and the middle child assuming there would be food at our house. I couldn’t claim I was too busy to cook two dinners but somehow it snowballed.
On Thursday we dug out the best dishes, the cloth napkins, the used once-a-year platter. The youngest daughter climbed up on the counter and pulled out the cloudy wine glasses to wash and shine and add to the shiny, well used ones lined up next to the cork screw. Then we did it all over again on Saturday. We even had the same guests at both dinners. I don’t think they really wanted to redo Thanksgiving, but they’re good enough friends to humor us.
As always, I made an apple pie. The family requested pecan pie; the oldest daughter had to have pumpkin. One set of guests brought bread pudding, another brought a cheese cake. There were enough calories in just the deserts to keep fatten up a third world village.
So now with leftovers from two Thanksgiving dinners still filling my refrigerator, I can feel guilty until Christmas when we do it one more time. After all, turkey is fairly inexpensive for a special dinner. In fact, my husband is advocating turkey for our part of the annual neighborhood dinner party, but I just can’t face another one that soon!
Sometimes I’m tempted to follow in my mother’s footsteps and quit my role as chief Thanksgiving chef early. I think my mother was younger than I am now when she cooked her last Thanksgiving dinner. We had some interesting holidays when I was a young adult. One year she left me and my brother alone and went to visit her aunt in Florida. My brother and I, both seniors in high school, did what any teenager left home alone would do, we had a party. We served apple pie and whatever beer our underage friends could acquire. At the time, I thought we had gotten away with it, but looking back, I wonder if my mother knew all along what we had been up to.
There were other years when we ate out and my sister cooked a couple of times. Then after I was married, we went to his family home for Thanksgiving and I’d bring along a book or two and finish them while the others watched football. Being a non-football fan in a house where the cook had dinner ready two days ahead of time, was exquisitely boring. I can remember begging to fill the water glasses because it was simply something to do.
When we had kids we bought them along and I was relegated to an un-childproof family room to try to amuse bored toddlers so they wouldn’t interrupt the football watching. I was relieved when we moved to Arkansas and I could use that as an excuse to cook my own Thanksgiving dinner. I finally had something to do!
Looking back I can say that we’ve had lots of good Thanksgivings at home and away. We’ve eaten in California, New Mexico, Florida and one memorable year near Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. This year’s meal will be added to our collection of Thanksgiving memories as the one and only time we had two Thanksgiving dinners. And while I’m busy being thankful for good friends and family that join us, I’ll try to remember to be thankful for the chance to cook.

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Here it is a truly beautiful fall day and I can’t quite shake off a creeping depression. Then the college kid jumps into my former station wagon and drives off, returning to college. I actually teared up. I miss having kids.
Later, I checked an acquaintance’s Facebook photo album which featured two pretty ordinary little boys and it was the same feeling. I had to swallow my impulse to comment on her wall. I wanted to warn her to enjoy the kids while she has them, because they just don’t stay. Yeah, you get them for close to twenty years, and that may seem like long enough, but all of a sudden the times up and the kids are gone and it sure doesn’t feel like it’s been twenty years. It feels like yesterday.
And what can you do about it?
You know you don’t want to make them stay home. You want them to be independent and successful. You want them to be happy and responsible. And you know that means they really have to leave. But knowing that doesn’t really help when they cheerfully throw a laundry basket into the back seat and leave you standing in the garage wondering how it went by so fast.
Several people warned me when they were little but I didn’t really believe them. There’s a time when you’re so overwhelmed with the day to day stuff – scheduling play days, catching up the laundry, trying to get three kids to three different schools at the same time – even while time was flying by, it didn’t seem to matter. But then one day it does matter.
And I don’t want to hear one more person tell me about adult children who “come back.” If they want to come live in their old bedrooms again, that would be fine with me. I would love to buy family size packages in the grocery store again. I’d love to nag them to pick up their dirty clothes (and then go pick them up myself even through I swore I would never do that for them). If they wanted to stay out late, that would be fine with me. If they dragged home a family of their own, all the better. I would be glad give up the guest room for them. We haven’t had a guest room very long anyway.
It really is a beautiful day and all of a sudden I feel guilty. It feels like last week when I threw my clean laundry into the back seat of the station wagon that had once been my mother’s and drove off; leaving her alone in the house that had once been full. And now I realize that I never apologized for going off like that and never going back.

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1989I remember the first recital: sitting in the auditorium of the elementary school in Heber Springs; waiting breathlessly to see my little blonde four year old come on stage with several of her closest friends. I was afraid for her and proud of her all that the same time. I knew she was the most talented four year old ever. I knew she could fail. Then they all came out in red tutus and white tap shoes. They were adorable.
I think of that every year when recital weekend rolls around. My husband calls it dance torture, a nick name quickly adopted by our son, but although the recitals can be long, I never found them torturous. I always pulled out that memory of the little red tutus and that makes it all worthwhile.
Over the years we’ve been at recitals with six different dance studios. For a while, we had two daughters enrolled at two separate studios, a decision that made car pool sense, but complicated recital weekend tremendously. I would send the guys to the older daughter’s recital and take a video camera to the younger daughter’s. As soon as she stepped off stage, I’d grab her and her little pink dance bag and race across town to see the end of the other recital. She was usually the only one in the audience dressed in a little red tutu.
The recitals were always long and it was always difficult to entertain the non-dancers while we waited for the one dancer we came out to see. The son always had his Gameboy, but the husband didn’t have any electronic toys back then. It was years before his I-phone filled that gap. Back then, he sometimes snuck out and went across the street for a beer. When he came back, I’d have to fill him in on what he missed and, of course, he always missed the one dancer we came to see. I’d have to prime him with information so he could pretend he saw the pretty yellow costume or the special turn learned just for that dance.
One time he came back with a bag of fast food which he smuggled by the ushers and the “no food or drink” signs. As soon as he opened the bag, everyone within five rows of us was sniffing and looking around suspiciously.
There was never a correct answer when the dancer asked, “How did I do?”
If you told her, “You looked great. It was wonderful,” you would be accused of not watching carefully. If you made the mistake of offering a criticism, it meant you didn’t love her. I used to hope someone else would fall or lose a piece of costume, so I could deflect the inevitable question.
The mad shoe search was often a prelude to recital. One year I found myself driving to all the rival dance studios offering to buy a size four tap shoe out of their lost and found box, but only if it was a left foot. Hair was a problem too. From the year of the little red tutu, other mothers would always have to help me with my kids’ hair. I’d send them up the street to beg the neighbors for a French braid.
Then there was make up. I’ve never mastered eye liner on myself, never mind on an offspring’s eye. It’s especially hard to draw a straight line on an eye that refuses to remain still. Just because I poked them every now and then! The first time I ever bought false eye lashes, I found myself explaining to a confused salesgirl that they were for my eleven year old daughter. I didn’t even bother trying to explain why I was allowing my eleven year old to wear false eye lashes. I wasn’t sure of that answer myself.
When we moved here, we had two daughters at the same studio, but they still had separate recitals until the younger one was finally promoted to the “big kids” Saturday night recital. Only one recital to sit through was a nice change which, of course, didn’t last.
When we thought we had finished with the older daughter’s recitals, she got a job teaching dance and I was suddenly cast in a new role as the mother of the teacher which required my attendance at the little girl’s recital once again. Her young students were completely unimpressed with my status. I don’t think they really believed their teacher had a mother. Suddenly I was helping to ready a new generation of red tutu’s for their own debuts.
By then knew some of the tricks. I knew to put the tan tights under the pink tights to make a fast change of color possible. I learned to write a name on every single piece of every single costume and every shoe. I learned how to beg the dance teacher for a simpler hair style or else the name of an inexpensive stylist. I learned how the answer the questions after the performances without hurting anyone’s tender feelings.
My daughters learned to be comfortable on stage. They learned the value of stretching and rehearsing. They learned how to negotiate the complicated relationships between adolescent girls competing with each other.
They’re both mostly grown now and last weekend when we sat in the high school auditorium watching our youngest perform her senior solo; I knew that I’m going to miss dance torture and little red tutus.

2010

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