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Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Practical wisdom passed down~

I grew up in what pop psychologists today would call an "authoritative" household.  My parents said jump, I said how high?  I feared my dad, but loved him as well.  My grandmother spanked me quite often with the wooden spoon she always seemed to be cooking with, and I loved her fiercely!  When I was 18 she died and I don't remember ever grieving more to this day than I did then.  She was the matriarch, and ruled with her wooden spoon, and we all loved her for it.  My mother was one of the oldest of my grandmother's children and after she had me, was still expected to come home and help my grandmother shop, cook, and clean- my grandmother had 11 kids you see, and it wasn't possible to do it all on her own.  My grandfather worked three jobs to put a roof over their heads and send his children to private schools.  My grandparents were not perfect people, nor were my parents but as I get older and my own kids get older the last generation or two get wiser in my mind!

This is what my grandmother taught me-

  • Children should be seen and not heard~ Well, we didn't want to be heard!  My siblings, cousins, and I were always up to some mischief.  We were either taking something apart, digging holes, filling something up with water, playing make believe; where everyone was the hero, or riding our bikes down very steep hills with no helmets or shoes on.  What did I take way from this and apply to my child raising technique?  All of it!  Sorry- my kids seldom wear helmets
  • Children are little sinners ( my grandmother was English so she said Bloody sinners)  I can distinctly remember being aware of the fact that Kids were LOW on the food chain.  I was okay with that.  We were kids, delighting in the simplicity of being so..I admired and looked up to the adults in my life (again they were far from perfect).  This made me feel safe.  I didn't have to make decisions like kids do today, they were made for me.  This only made "coming of age" that much more exciting when that time came.  My take away from this?  Quit asking your kids what they think so much- do you want to play kindergarten soccer?  What school do you want to go to?  Where do you want to eat for dinner?  This makes me crazy!!  You are the adult, act like one..believe me, your 7 year old, left to his own devises would die of malnutrition, make all the wrong decisions about his schedule, and would probably end of sleep deprived..they are bloody sinners with no wisdom- YET!  If you play it right they will be very wise adults someday.   For now?  You are the parent, remember that.
  • Privileges are earned!   Going out to a movie or buying a new outfit was such a BIG deal in my home.  We did most of the shopping with my grandmother along (she never drove) and I could just hear her telling me, "If you are well behaved" we will get a tamale from the tamale cart.  (they had this cart in the street that I loved to buy tamale's at)  My grandmother meant this- one side glance or misstep, I knew I was done for.  There was no arguing with her, it just was.  Bad behavior?  No tamale.  I knew it, deep within me and never doubted the swift consequence would come.  My take away on this one- Parents, let your no be no!  I see this played over and over again around me, kids "talking" their parents into things.  Again, "you are the parent, that's all you need to know on this one.  If you threaten something, carry it out..your kids will respect you in the long run, and will grow up the way they are supposed to.  I am sick of seeing 20 somethings acting like babies! 
  • Hard Work!  I never remember a time when I didn't see both my grandmother and mother not working.  They cooked and cleaned, took care of kids, laundry.  This sent me a message I was unaware I was receiving at the time.  To this day it sets an example for me.  Life is not all entertainment and fun, we have to work.  The women in my life modeled that, and I grew up being expected to help.  I folded laundry as young as second grade.  My twin brother and sister were born when I was 10 and I remember my grandmother telling me, you must help your mother with the feedings in the middle of the night, she can't feed both of them at once.  I have a memory of getting up when I heard the babies cry and going in there to change one while she fed the other.  My take away?  Don't feel sorry for me, I loved it.  It made me feel so grown up and needed.  I really felt good that I could help my mom like that.   My take away?  They say self esteem is at an all time low for kids.  Quit trying to see how many sports your kids can excel at, how high you can get their grades, and make them serve!  Hard work, and honest day's work carries you far in all that you do-and keeps you humble!
  • It's perfectly acceptable to have an opinion~  My grandmother had opinions about everything.  She was smart and followed politics.  I remember when she became an official American citizen.  My father was Irish and I remember her espousing her low opinion of anyone Irish.  My dad laughed and grabbed her in a bear hug, it was all okay because she loved him- just not his heritage.  One of my aunts would bring a new boy home and she would let everyone know what she thought of him.  (she was usually right).  She had opinions but she was loved by many.  Her table was always full at every holiday, and when she died her memorial service was standing room only. What is my take away from this?  Be yourself.  Show your kids that it is okay to have an opinion and to voice it.  My grandmother (maybe it was her heavy accent) got away with saying shocking things..but then she would laugh, saying what she thought,  then moving on.  Don't beat a dead horse, say what you have to say and let it go!  You can't make people hear you, but sometimes it's more important that you say it, than it be heard.  
  • Religion!  My Grandmother was a devout Catholic.  She went to church everyday.  They had mass at my cousins grade school every morning before school and she was front row.  Because I spent so much time at her house, I often went with her.  She knew every response, every prayer, and every book in the bible.  This was another thing that I "caught" from her.  She seldom spoke of her faith, but her life said it all.  There was some gritty tenacity about my grandmother that I watched closely and her faith was no exception.  She was one of the only ones in my family that was so devout.  I heard her say to her own kids, You Bloody well get to church and repent of your sins, father so and so is watching you.  Again, This also gave me a sense of security growing up.  You mean there are people watching me?  You mean there really is a God that maintains order in this crazy world?  You mean we can turn to an all loving/ all knowing God when things get mixed up?  Thanks Grandma for teaching me that~ an unshakable faith.
When I was in fourth grade I had to interview someone in my family for a school project.  Of course, I chose my grandma.  I was a little nervous to ask her the personal things required for this project, she seldom spoke of her life as a child in England.  I knew very little about her teen years or how she met my American Grandfather during World War 2, but I pressed on.  She was mellow (strange for her) as we spoke about her life.  She spoke about her love and longing of England.  How when she moved to America she left everything she knew so well.  She talked about being Catholic in a protestant Country..and I noticed what I had always known- she was a softy on the inside.  Her bark was worse than her bite.  I noticed the passion and the love of a woman that had endured much, lost much.  I admired her all the more as I reported and wrote that paper.  The lessons she taught me,  and that I have used raising my kids,  I hope to share with her someday.  It's so basic yet so profound, and I thank her for her profound influence on my life!  I wish my kids could have known her, but I think they do in a way~ Through me, her granddaughter. 

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