The General (aka – my wife) announced to me yesterday that the grandkids don’t want to go home tomorrow. Before she could tell me more, I interrupted her to say, “Great! You’ve just given me a topic for tomorrow’s blog. I can see it in print now, ‘The good news is the kids don’t want to go home! (Abbreviated pause) The bad news is the kids don’t want to go home.’” I guess I thought it was pretty clever. I laughed; the General did not! At times she really needs to lighten up.
Her only response was something closely akin to: “You spend all your time either working or writing your blog.” It wasn’t followed by a lecture. There was no, “You didn’t do x,y or z.” She didn’t make accusations related to being inattentive, neglectful or preoccupied. It was simply a statement of fact based on her perception. “You spend all of your time either working or writing a blog.”
Lesson learned: “Keep my blog ideas to myself and let the General be surprised if and when she reads them”. I am in the process of posting my blog on a different platform. It is one where an individual can subscribe and automatically be notified through email when the next blog is available. In fact, you might check out the link and select “Follow” (https://lifeblogcarpediem.wordpress.com). I’m not holding my breath that the General will select the “Follow” button. Only time will tell and I may never know.
At any rate, she went on to say, “They want to stay until Sunday.” I immediately thought, “Hello Houston, we’ve got a problem”! We had agreed to take them halfway home and hand them off to their parents. The traffic will be horrible on Sunday afternoon. That is particularly true since Sunday is the last day of spring break.
While I was thrilled with the affirmation that the kids want to stay with us as long as possible, I was also less than enthusiastic related to the thought of being in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Sunday. I can make good decisions when needed. If left to the General’s discretion, she’d have no problem waiting until Sunday. Of course, she wouldn’t be the one driving.
I took the day off work yesterday to stay home with the kids. In the quietness of the early morning, I was attempting to process some of the features associated with the new blog site. Jake walked into my office and said, “Granddad, do you want to know what I do to get the cows attention?” I responded, “Sure”. He replied, “You’ll have to come with me.” To which I replied, “Right now I’m working on something, but when I get finished I will come with you.” Apparently, my response was unsatisfactory.
His body language was very expressive. His voice resonated with urgency as he said, “Granddad, what you are doing is not a life or death situation. I need you to come with me now.” I was hooked, but curious. “Jake, where did you learn the expression, “Life or death situation?” He replied, “I learned it from my brother. He says it all the time.”
I followed Jake outside. What he did to get the cows attention even got my attention. He had a toy pistol (purchased with the General’s permission from the Dollar General). In my day, we’d have called it a cap gun. It was a different configuration, but it was loud. It sounded like a real pistol.
Seeing the delight on his face took me back to long ago. How many gunfights did I engage in playing “cowboys” with my brothers and other kids in the neighborhood? It was one of our favorite activities.
Having grandchildren with us typically is a feel-good experience. For the most part they are absolutely delightful and their behavior is flawless. The operative phrase is “for the most part”. Sometimes they can come off as a little bossy. Perhaps, they’ve seen Gram role model that for them. Maybe I’m old and set in my ways, but I don’t like being told what to do. A couple of times through the week, I found myself calmly responding, “Are you asking or telling? Why don’t we try that again with respect?” Each time the gentle redirection worked. Actually, I was surprised with the smile that prefaced the “I’m sorry” statements and their reframing the previous command into a request.
I also noticed the General was amazingly skilled with the kids. “Why don’t we use our inside voices instead of our outside voices?” She also was very patient. One evening at dinner, I told Jenna and Lilian (both age eleven), “When Gram was your age she was cooking the evening meal for her family”. The General chimed in, “I was also washing the dishes, doing the ironing and cleaning the house”. I couldn’t help myself. “So kids, now you know the truth. Your Gram is really Cinderella. I came along and saved the day!” The General was not amused. However, the next day, the girls did make homemade cookies from scratch. Gram also orchestrated the expectation that beds be made-up every morning. She really runs a tight ship. I should know, I’ve been the source of lots of redirection.
Actually, I think the General and I would be better parents today than we were with our children. Part of that is having a better understanding today of what is ultimately important for children. An authoritative parenting style that permits children to have “a voice” rather than authoritarian style (law and order) where any misdeed is punished with consequences seems to work best in providing nurture and support. Sometimes the gentle reminder, “Why don’t we try that again with respect” is all that is needed.
By the way, I’m not ready for the kids to go home either.
All My Best!