Sometimes the words of wisdom from our grandparents don’t really have a profound impact until we get older. Their wisdom seems to resonate with time as we grow up, have children, and even grandchildren.
I grew up in the Midwest and was fortunate to have my grandparents living nearby, and an integral part of our day-to-day lives. My grandfather died just a few years after I was married but my grandmother never lost a step in the grandparenting role. I admit that sometimes her “old-fashioned” ways and well-meaning advice generated more than a few eye rolls.
As a young mother advice was readily given to me by my family. Stubbornly, I thanked them but I was determined to raise my daughter my way.
When my husband, a newly commissioned Naval officer received his first set of orders, it meant we had to move away from our hometown, taking both our family’s only grandchild away. Since none of our families had ever moved out of town, we were setting a new precedent. There was the usual hand-wringing and lots of tears, but it was my adventurous grandmother who said, “Honey, this is an exciting time for you and Michael. Go enjoy your new life. I’ll come and visit you wherever you live.” And she did.
Being physically distant from family was a mixed blessing. A year after the move, our son was born in Virginia. Friends in our new “military family” became our support system because our blood relatives were no longer just a few blocks away.
Single parenting became a whole new challenge, especially when my military husband was away at sea for months at a time. Though parenting is far from the easiest task in the world, in time I realized how profound the sage advice and role modeling my grandmother provided.
Though she’s no longer with us, I know her words, actions and support she gave wasn’t just because she loved us, it was because she wanted my job as a mother to be easier. Her words of wisdom are timeless.
Family is Everything
Growing up, I don’t recall a time when my grandparents weren’t present at each and every important event in my life — birthdays, holidays, graduations, and our wedding.
Even when we moved away, Grandma was always there when I needed her most. Family always came first.
As parents, the safety and well-being of our children should be paramount. But so is being there at times when they need us the most — learning to ride a bike, cheering at their sporting events, helping them choose a college, or providing sage guidance when buying their first house. Even when we have to loosen those apron strings, it’s vital to be there when they need us. Bottom line, life should never get in the way of meeting family’s needs, be they big or small.
Family Tradition is Important
Traditions strengthen the importance of family, reinforce shared values, and strengthens family ties with a sense of belonging. Whether these traditions relate to holidays, religious events or even family vacations, they are crucial to our identity. And they provide memories that pass from generation to generation.
One such tradition in my family is the Czechoslovakian bridal dance held at each wedding reception. The matrilineal tradition dictates that the bridal veil is removed for the dance and replaced with a handmade lace veil. That same veil was worn by my great-grandmother, my grandmother, me, and my daughter. The next to wear it will be our granddaughter. Though she’s only 11, she’s already hooked into the idea of this time-honored tradition.
Moms Can’t Always Be Perfect
“Motherhood is not a science,” Grandma used to say. And she was right. It’s not like there’s an A to Z guidebook, and even if there was, guaranteed it couldn’t possibly cover each and every scenario that we as moms encounter.
And while we may sometimes over-react to a situation after a long grueling day at work, or feeling under the weather, it’s good to remind ourselves that we’re not perfect and make mistakes. In the long run, if we love our children and do what we think is best at the time, they’ll forgive us.
Be the Role Model You Want Your Child to Emulate
Though faith for my grandmother was a personal issue, she dressed to the nines for Sunday church and always said her prayers on bended knee at bedtime and ensured blessings were shared at her dinner table.
Honesty and integrity were the hallmark of my grandparent’s characters, as was charity and giving to others in need. Grandma didn’t have to instruct on the difference between right and wrong. She led by her actions.
Children see and hear more than we realize. In the end, it’s our day-to-day repeated actions that dictate the behaviors they will emulate.
Provide Structure but Allow for Flexibility
Children need structure. It provides continuity and security. While set bedtimes, homework before play, and doing chores are all vital to this framework, it’s fine to occasionally loosen up. One more cookie or a 30-minute bedtime reprieve is sometimes ok. Grandma mastered this by making it clear that it was always the exception, and not the rule.
Maintain a Sense of Humor
I’m sure every mother recalls a time when they walked into a room whose walls the children covered in magic marker. While humor may not be our initial reaction, being able to laugh at the situation later is important for two reasons: Humor is a tension breaker. It also lets our children know, though actions may generate consequences, there’s a difference between writing on a wall and letting go of Mom’s hand in a busy parking lot.
Grandmothers are a full teapot of maternal wisdom. As moms, we need sip often from their fount of knowledge.