Tuesday, August 30, 2016

          There’s nothing more eye-opening than spending time around little kids. I am finally here in Arizona just drinking in every minute of my short time with my four grand-daughters. For young mothers who cannot imagine a grandmother’s perspective, I must say it comes with many layers. Watching my single-mom daughter juggle her career, four children under 10, a large household, a long-distance relationship and many other issues, I am amazed she is sane. Did I juggle many things as a single mom too? Yup. I worked four jobs and dealt with her having parties while I was out of town, so we all take our turns. Being around little kids, however, is so refreshing and thought-provoking. As an 11-year retired high school teacher, I miss my students to this day because they gave me a perspective I could never have imagined. So it is with these little ones 10, 9, 7 and 7. 

     Last night on my bed, the two oldest brought me their books. They wanted to read to me. That always scores a +10 on my list because I believe reading is so crucially important. The oldest read me one of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books. I was stunned by the dialogue in the pages she read me that dealt with the technology question. The parents in the book are complaining about how things aren’t like they were in “their day,” due to the fact that everyone has her face in a screen. I had no idea that these young peoples’ books dealt with such topical issues. The three of us even had a short discussion about it. omg. I never
expected this treat.

     Every grandparent thinks his or her grand-children are the cutest, smartest, most talented on the planet. I was never one to brag about my children, much less my grand-children. As a “senior,” I have no comparison, so I don’t know how smart they are on the universal scale of genius. I do know that they are sweet, loving little girls who are giving me great joy and a perspective that brings joy to my heart and hope for the future. (I also have three wonderful grandsons who give me a completely different perspective of their world, and that is especially interesting to me, as I never had sons.They, too, are lovable and they always make me laugh).

     So how do parents today know whether to hover above or peak over their children? How do we know how much to coddle and protect and how much to let them go? Every generation faces external pressures and dangers. Today’s parents inherited the fears from mine: drugs, alcohol, etc., but in addition the whole technology piece looms overhead with new apps promising unthinkable dangers every day. The oldest grand-daughter sang the jingle to the Monostat commercial last night. She and her sister were laughing about yeast infections, and they had no idea what they were. The point is, kids are exposed to things every day, some of which we don’t even realize, and their little minds are taking it all in and processing while we’re trying to get them to finish their homework packets. 

     What’s my point? My point is all we can do as parents is the best we can. Did I make mistakes? Plenty of them? Some I’m still paying for. But we can only parent with what we’ve learned from our own and from the experts out there who claim to have researched every topic and tested it for years. What I yearned for most as a young child was the attention and approval of my parents. I remember feeling frustrated when I had to wait for my Dad to finish the whole newspaper before he would talk to me. I was frustrated when I felt that my parents were distracted and only seemed to give me a quick answer  because their minds were elsewhere. 
It can’t be helped. When we are career parents, as most of us were and are, there are so many things on our minds, the juggling act can often become overwhelming. Being present, however, is the greatest gift we can give our kids. We may not have all the answers to their questions, and we may not be able to fulfill their needs of the moment, but we can listen and we can empathize as best we can. And most importantly, we must be kind to ourselves for trying.