Make the Love

I had a wonderful weekend. We celebrated both grandkids’ birthdays. We laughed, spoiled, loved, gossiped, and enjoyed the company of parents, grandparents, great grandparents (grandpa is 90 next month!) my grandkids, friends with their kids and grandkids, plus a couple of dogs thrown in.

Today I read the following column at Ask Amy (http://tiny.cc/za2wmy)….

DEAR AMY: I have four adult children and three grandchildren. They all live 2.5 hours away and have very successful, fulfilling lives. My husband and I couldn’t be prouder. They usually call every week or so and I send an occasional text or email. The problem is our daughter-in-law, who wants nothing to do with us. She is the mother of our only grandchildren. She refuses to visit, especially on the holidays. When we visit, she is pleasant but seems to barely tolerate us.

We want to see more of our grandsons but we are not permitted to babysit, and if I ask to take them to the park, etc., she ignores me, hoping I will let it go (which I do to keep the peace).

I have spent many a sleepless night trying to figure out what I have done to her and cannot think of a thing. Honestly, in the 10 years they have been married I have never said a mean word or offered advice, even with new babies.

I say nothing to my son. I know he sees her treatment of us and feels guilty, but fighting about it isn’t worth it to him. The boys love to see us and I have heard the oldest asking if he can go home with Grandma and Grandpa and Mom always says no!

This made me very sad.

I don’t know the daughter’s side, I don’t know the grandparents’ side. But to keep grandparents from enjoying the best time of their entire lives —

What happens to families?

I know I take for granted the love and affection I share with my two sons and their kids. Love, friendship, all come naturally for us. We’re not all like two peas in a pod all the time, mind you, but we enjoy each other’s company and get together whenever we can.

Grandparents are the old souls, the old angels, leading the innocent young angels through the mess we call life. We try and lighten their burdens, play their games, listen to their secrets. We give them a safe space their parents can’t, just because they’re parents.

It’s a parent’s job to protect, guide, and teach their precious packages to ensure they make it through life with a good head on their shoulders.

It’s a grandparent’s job to spoil, cuddle, play and dream with those same packages, ensuring they make it through life with good dreams in their heads.

I look at Dear Amy’s question and my heart breaks for everyone involved. The grandkids will never have that close relationship with two people who love them so much; the mother will never find peace with the mother and father of her husband; and the grandparents will have to deal with empty arms and empty dreams.

Like I said. I don’t know the whole story — I never will. There is nothing I can do to change that family and their sorrows.

But what I can do is share this story so that you will go home tonight and hug your kids and grandkids and when you see your friends or your sister hug their kids and grandkids. Play catch or Chinese checkers with them. Tell them a story of when you were a kid.

Don’t just take the love — MAKE the love.

 

 

 

Did You Know You Spoke Chinese?

I have a grandson who is starting kindergarten in a couple of weeks. Ahhh…innocence floating out the window. No, not him — me. Or rather his mom. Brings to mind a blog I wrote back in October of 2011. Think it still rings true.

I Didn’t Know I Spoke Chinese

Do you believe that children and their parents speak two different languages?  Do you ever try and communicate with someone who hasn’t a clue as to what you are saying?

The teen years are stressful for those going through them. Puberty comes crashing in any time between the ages of 12 and 16, estrogen and testosterone fighting for space inside a body that is growing in too many directions at one time.  But hey. What about the ones on the other side of those swings? Those who pay for hot lunches and gym shoes and nail polish?  Not only do we have to put up with I-pods and cell phones, but we have to learn to speak a whole new language in order to be understood.  It is as if we have stepped over the threshold of reality into an entirely new universe.

Life seemed so much simpler when our kids were toddlers. The years between two and, say, five, are probably the most rewarding for all forms of parental figures.  We can do no wrong; our children hang on our every word.  They fear and revere us. They bounce around from moment to moment wanting only to please those in charge.  Pick up your toys?  Of course! Eat your spaghetti?  Of course!  Clean your room?  Of course! We speak, they listen, and things are ideal.

Then comes those “cute” years, say, six through nine.  Everything they do and say is cute, especially when they pout and say “no” with wide-eyed enthusiasm.  Pick up your toys?  No! I wanna play with ‘em a little longer.  Eat your spaghetti?  No! I want pizza instead.  Clean your room?  No!  I gotta have twenty dolls in the corner!  They are starting to catch on to the power of being an individual.  They still brush their teeth and do their homework and go to bed pretty much on time, but they learn to manipulate the world by talking or playing or whining, probably all three.

By the time middle school comes around, there is a slight Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-ish personality starting to surface. Football games and study nights with friends start to take on a bit more significance as our middle schoolers begin to feel the strength of their own convictions.  Pick up your toys?  Oh please, I don’t play with ‘toys’ anymore.  Eat your spaghetti.  Red sauce? I’d rather have cheese.  Clean your room.  Oh mommy dear and/daddy dear — it is clean!  A little clip in their voice should be the giveaway that they are catching on to you.

Just when you think you have settled the beast that rustles inside your child, their high school days hit you right between the eyes. Music becomes some thundering beat with  talking rather than singing; wearing jeans that cut low enough to show off underwear or vertical fissures becomes the fashion statement of the day. Homework becomes an enigma.  School semesters are identified by fall, winter and spring sports, and words like Paris and Pink suddenly take on a whole new meaning.

You wake up one morning sprouting antennae from your head. Your voice becomes a booming echo down an empty tunnel or a high-pitched squeak riding the airwaves.  Suddenly you speak a foreign language: ρτε τα παιχνίδια σας  (pick up your toys in Greek);  съешьте ваше спагеттио (eat your spaghetti in Russian), and 投入您的衣裳去, (Chinese for clean your room). Their eyes become glazed and their expression reminds you of eating a lemon.  One day you are a friendly, loving parent, the next moment you are Godzilla’s cousin.  You don’t know what you are talking about ― your ideas or so old-fashioned they will be amazed if you make it to 50.

How did this happen?  How did we fall off of our pedestal?  One moment our child is reaching up to be held, the next moment they cringe if you hug them in public.  Is this the reward for all of our hard work?  All our love?

Well, trust me.  This too will pass.  As your children approach their twenties, they are amazed at how smart you’ve suddenly become.  Your old-fashioned ideas transform into newly discovered truths of their generation.  The older they get, the more human you become.  Your antennae suddenly don’t seem so out-of-place; as a matter of fact, they kinda look cute on your old frame.  You find a common ground through life and all its ups and downs, and they finally understand what you’ve been saying all these years.  Words and ideas flow once again, and your pedestal gets packed away somewhere deep in their heart, only to be pulled out when you are not looking.

Either that — or you have finally learned to speak Chinese.

A Star is Form(ed)

pastaI love watching  people “livin’ the dream.” Watching the Food Network’s last Food Network Star, that was a popular phrase shared by the contestants and mentors as well. And really — doing what you love doing, walking the hallowed halls of Food Network, past the gods and goddesses of cuisine, travelling to places like Caesar’s Palace and restaurants that offer $1,000 ice cream sundaes — how can you not be living someone’s dream?

Television is truly a dream all its own. I watched season 6 of Face Off, and one of the episodes sent the contestants to Japan. To Japan! Just to give the prosthetic makeup artists a little bit of inspiration?  They can inspire me like that any time they want.

Or Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen. Most of those contestants are animals from the start, but when they win challenges they do things like go sailing or have champagne lunch on the beach or, for the final competitors, a night in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. With a view!

I know I sound like I’m jealous — and I am. I know there are only a few that can rise to the top, creamy white and perfect. Some of it is luck, some of it talent, but a lot of it is throwing hangups and insecurities to the wind and just going for it. It’s using that innate talent that we all have and doing something with it, not being afraid to put it out there; not being afraid to fail.

I think I’ve always been afraid to put it out there because I’ve always been afraid to fail.

Our parents raise us as well as they can. Their hangups, their ignorance, seep into our growth whether we want it to or not. But their confidence, their dreams, their positive reinforcement seep into our growth as well. Cheering us on at soccer games, sitting and listening to us in choir concerts, marveling at our crayon drawings, all help us feel better about ourselves.

This is where our power as an adult comes from. Where it can be used for good or for evil.

I have always been what I consider a “nice  girl.” I was picked on through middle school, but I got passed it and moved along through boyfriends and job. Married and had kids. During my lonely days I kept a journal. I wrote stories. I aged. I role played, which was impromptu writing. I kept more journals. More stories. Poetry. More writing. My parents were good to me, but they never really encouraged me to follow my dream.  Maybe I should have gone to college and been an English or Writing major. But they didn’t have the money and I didn’t have the focus. To be honest, I don’t think a lot of us did that back then.

There are always a lot of winners and losers in the world. Only one person can become a Master Chef. Only one person can be the owner of the fanciest restaurant in San Francisco or Accountant of the Year.

But there are a lot of wonderful, brilliant, fun people at number two. Or three. Or seventeen. After we get over our jealousy of what others “get” (which…come on…we all feel…at least initially), we can can celebrate our love of our craft no matter where we are. We can encourage our kids and grandkids to go for what they want. What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t become number one? So what?

Parents have the power to make that okay, too.

That doesn’t mean we don’t teach our kids and grandkids to compete. The working world is still a working world, and you rarely get ahead by being cute or dressing like Beverly Hills. Most successful people know what they can and cannot do, and go after what they can do.  They work hard, play hard, and love hard, so when failure comes their way they have other outlets waiting for them.

I still would love to be one of the portraits hanging down the Food Network Studio Hallway, but my cooking skills would never stand up against those with more experience. No matter — I know a couple of kids who love to cook. Why not encourage them along the way? Encourage them to have fun while they hone their skills? For that matter, why not say something positive about someone’s poem or drawing or how well they hit a baseball? What have you got to lose?

I’m still working on putting myself out there creative-wise. What have I got to lose? Besides — I still have time to push J.K. Rowling off her throne and take her publishing crown.

Even if it is too small for this swollen head…