I was reminded of this principle just last night. Big Sister has had a stuffy nose for maybe a week now. She also refuses to blow her nose, because somehow even the most lotion-infused and constellation festooned box of Kleenex is offensive to her. This mirrors a problem my mom had with my little brother who flat out refused her multiple suggestions (calling on the holy spirit to intervene at times) that he just BLOW. HIS. NOSE. It fell on deaf ears for years until he came to the conclusion that he should, wait for it…use a tissue to alleviate his issue. Back to the present time, when I was bemoaning the scene here – looking for an ally – and my children’s’ grandmother suggested cheerfully that I encourage Big Sister to exhale underwater at bath time to alleviate the congestion. This worked like a charm and was met with zero resistance. My mom? She would have insisted we just listen to her. Grandma? She makes it palatable.
When I was a child my mom wanted us to try different foods. Foods like okra (best when fried or in gumbo) and eggplant (still eat it) and radishes (good in salads if shaved) and turnips (what the H were you thinking, MA?). You know, pretty much the four items kids are known for overwhelmingly requesting… We had to try it, even if it was a bite. My kids’ grandmother would never force children to do something like that, no sir. One time when my mom was over for dinner, Little Sister was complaining that she didn’t want the skin of her baked potato – wouldn’t even try it. Her grandmother quickly scooped the potato onto the plate AND THEN THREW AWAY THE REPULSIVE POTATO SKIN. I couldn’t believe what I had witnessed.
My friend Mary’s* father is lovingly referred to Mike “Mad Dog” O’Hoolihan* and not for his slow ascension to anger. He was once asked to leave her playoff game because he was screaming at the referee who Mad Dog felt made a “poor call” (not his actual words). Also, Mad Dog was the coach of the team. Fast forward to today when Mary’s daughter talked about her teammates looking forward to earning a participation medal on her pee wee league. Mary held her breath to gauge Old Mad Dog’s reaction. He said nothing at first then broke out into a thoughtful smile, saying “I could see how that might encourage some kids to participate”. Liberties were taken to protect the identities of a few individuals here…
I hear the same thing over and over – much like the way “when we were kids we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow” (and we lived in Florida…) when we recall things from our childhood, they are filtered through what we felt at the time. I have learned as a parent that there has never before been a time where I was trying harder to do my best (and I would consider myself an overachiever – though mostly in the goal setting of things). I have to believe all good parents do that. (And yes, I am calling myself a good parent, not a perfect parent or a shining example to be followed above others – I have also learned that it’s not conceited to lay such a claim). The irony is of course, that it seems you only get to the mastery level of this practice when your kids have kids of their own.
At first I was shocked and maybe in an ego-bruised way, deflated that “I didn’t get” the potato skin discarding mom that is now a grandmother to the girls (who is the real child in THAT truth?!). That could hold me up or you or Mary. But if you focus on the beauty of it all – that we never stop getting better at parenting when it’s a conscious choice rooted in love – all that is left is an overwhelming sense of hope. And even I can raise a forkful (just one) of turnips to that.