Archive for June, 2010

My Little Country Dandelion

June 27, 2010

Dear Grandparents,

When I pick a bouquet of dandelions (my favorite wildflower, and my mother’s favorite) they all look the same. I know they are all the same because they have come from the same field, the same sunny spot, and they have received the same amount of rainfall. So, yes, they are the same; I think you would agree.

Given the sameness in nature, why is my little country-girl, Hannah, my 11 year old granddaughter, so different from her sisters? They all get the same amount of sunshine—Hannah hasn’t been locked up in an attic. They come from the same field—no stepparents here. And, Hannah is well-fed and has been showered with the same abundance of love and concern as has been bestowed upon her sisters. Yet, she is different.

Oh, Hannah’s difference is something to celebrate!  We say Hannah is undersized. You might say she’s spindly. Despite her size, she’s tough and strong. Hannah’s talents and skills seem to be peppered with extremism. She’s not just fast; she can outrun kids two years older. She’s not just smart, she is brilliant. And, so I wonder, “How can a talented, straight A student forget to wear shoes to school?  Is this Possible?

Hannah’s mother, Shannan, pulls up to the drop-off-lane at school and hurries the kids out of the car.

“Mommy.”

“What is it, Hannah?”

“Mommy.”

“What, Hannah?”

“Mommy, I forgot my shoes.”

“You … what?”

Hannah’s sisters have never forgotten to wear shoes to school.

Visiting Shannan and Luke and the girls is so much fun because I sit back and wait for something to happen: Something involving Hannah.

“Mommy.” Little Emily dawdles up to the adults.

“Mommy.” Little Maggie waits patiently for an adult, any adult, to answer.

“Mommy, can we climb trees?” they ask in unison.

“No, you can not.” Shannan never even looks up.

“But, Mommy, Hannah is.”

“Oh, my God!” Shannan runs and takes in the sight of Hannah scaling the top of a 20 foot Magnolia. “Hannah! Get down from there! You’re going to fall!”

“No, I’m not, Mommy. I promise!”  Her voice echoes across the wind.

“H-A-N-N-A-H!” And, Mommy shudders and winces as Hannah descends with the balance of a gymnast and the speed of a flying squirrel.

“See. It’s easy.” Hannah flashes her quick, little country-girl smile and takes off to search for some endangered species of lizard or toad.

An exasperated Shannan looks wearily into my eyes. ““Mom? Does she not see the danger? Does she just not know?”

I dispense sympathy to my daughter. She is such a devoted mother. And, I contemplate the thought that perhaps Hannah has a much-pruned frontal lobe. I honestly wonder if the part of her brain that is home to judgment is self-pruning at a rapid pace.

Now, when it comes to Hannah’s sisters, I can’t recall them looking for the opportunity to perch twenty feet off the ground. Nope. They won’t even fetch little green apples for me.

Talking to Hannah on the phone gives this grandmother such pleasure. “What have you been up to, Hannah?” I cannot even begin to guess how she will reply.

“Curly Grandma, the baby wrens have hatched in the barn.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw them hatch.”

“You watched them hatching?”

“Yeah, it was really neat.”

I am thinking that such a hatching takes more than a few minutes, more minutes than a child would spare, even a barefoot, little country girl. “How long did it take?”

“Oh, it took a long time. I had to hide in the rafters. I had to sit really, really still. The mother bird knew I was there, but as long as I didn’t move, she was OK. I have been watching the nest since she laid her eggs. So, she’s used to me. She’s still scared when I move, though.”

About two weeks later, I talk to Hannah on the phone again. “Hi, Hannah, what have you been up to?”

“Curly Grandma, the baby wrens left the nest, yesterday.”

“You saw them?”

“Yeah, they are still in the barn. When I first saw them out of the nest, I thought they fell, and I put them back in the nest. Then, I realized that the mama wanted them out of the nest. She is staying with them.”

“Hannah, how long did this take?”

“Oh, I spent about two hours in the rafters this morning. Then I took a break. Then I went back out and watched some more.”

“You sit in the rafters?”

“Yeah, it’s so cool.”

“Hannah, aren’t you hot up there?”

“Yeah!” she giggles. “It’s really hot.”

Hannah has the gentleness of a new mother, the curiosity of a kitten, and I think the brain of an absent-minded-professor. You’ll find her checking up on pets and wild creatures daily. She runs though the sandspurs, barefoot; she climbs the trees and rafters, barefoot, and she runs to the “back forty” to put out feed, barefoot. She is her mother’s wild child.

And, so goes Hannah’s experiences with the birds, the flying squirrels, the baby ducks, and whatever might be hatching or moving, or just catching a country girl’s interest.

But, Hannah’s sisters, Megan, Emily, and Maggie, share the same interest in animals as their Curly Grandma. If it’s more than 80 degrees outside, we’re in the air-conditioned house observing little hatch-lings from the window.

Now for school: Hannah excels in both academics and physical education. She’s on the cross-country team; she took second place in the county. She misplaced her shoes there, too.

One day, I decide to watch her run. I find her family in the crowd of spectators. “Hi, Shannan.” I greet my daughter and get big hugs from Hannah’s three sisters.

“Hmm.” Shannan answers back; she rolls her eyes.

“Isn’t Hannah running today?”

“Yeah, she’s running all right.”

“And?”

“Well, the coach is mad at me.”

“Because?”

“Well, I had to take Hannah to a cross-country meet last week. When we got there, she was all upset because she forgot her shoes at home.”

“She forgot her shoes for a running meet?”

“Yeah, she was barefoot. So I said, ‘Forget it. You’re not running today.””

“O-o-h. That hurt.”

“Yeah, so the team lost, and the coach says it’s my fault.”

“O-o-h. That hurts.”

“Yeah, so I don’t think the school is happy with me.”

“O-o-h.”

“Mom, she’s only eleven years old! How long will this go on? Is she ever going to start wearing shoes? Is she ever going to start remembering things?”

Sadly for Shannan, yet comically for me, poor Shannan and poor Hannah continue to lovingly butt heads.

You might wonder, what is Hannah like with her dad? From the day this little country girl was born, Hannah was her daddy’s sidekick. She fished with him. She hunted and cleaned deer with him. She rode in front of him in his saddle. And, she adopted every bullfrog, reptile, and baby hog he brought home.

The other day I was talking to Luke and asked him, “Are you still picking on my granddaughter?” I gave him that forgiving smile that grandparents dole out when they know they’re sticking up for the wrong person.

“Yeah, your granddaughter informed me that things aren’t working as well as expected.”

What do you mean?”

“She was giving me some lip, as usual, and I told her if she said one more word she was going to her room for the rest of the night.”

“And?”

“She sputtered out big tears and said, ‘Daddy, you and Mommy might as well go ahead and put me in an orphanage because things just aren’t working out between us.’”

Coke sprayed from my mouth as I laughed and choked on my chips. “She did not say that!”

“She did, and she meant it.”

And, in sharp contrast, Hannah’s sisters are content living with their mommy and daddy. They’re not in a big hurry to push Dad’s buttons. They kinda don’t mind not “having the last word.” And, unlike Hannah, they’ll do all they can to avoid a hot day in the sun pulling weeds for punishment.

But, if you want to know what kind of grandchild my Hannah really is, if you want to know where her heart is, if you want to peer into her head and her heart, you should know this.

It was Shannan’s birthday, and some of our extended family was gathering for cake. We visited and made small talk and enjoyed each other for about an hour. Then I went out to the car to get something. Here came Hannah, following me, without shoes.

“Curly Grandma, can I use your phone? I don’t want Mommy to see me calling anyone.”

Red flags went up.

Hannah explained, “You see, this morning when I got up, I said ‘Happy Birthday’ to Mommy, and she just sort of shrugged. I said, ‘Did anyone else remember your birthday?’ And she just nodded, so I know Daddy forgot. I don’t want Mommy to see me using the phone because then she’ll know I called Daddy to remind him. But, I don’t want Mommy’s feelings to be hurt.” She looked at me with genuine, 11 year old concern, “Curly Grandma, I just know Daddy will want to surprise her with something after work. So, can I use your phone to remind him?”

Hannah has a brilliant mind. Yes, she hates shoes and forgets them all the time. Hannah is a thorn in her sisters’ sides. She argues a lot. But, Hannah has the biggest heart for a little girl of eleven. I wouldn’t want my little country dandelion to be any different.

Well, Grandparents, I know you probably have a little dandelion among your lovely lilies and marigolds, too. Aren’t dandelions grand?

From the blooming side of grandparenting, I bid you Happy Gardening!

Curly Grandma

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandma with seven grandchildren.  Her name comes from her first grandchild, Megan, who learned to distinguish her two grannies with adjectives (hence the Curly). Visit Curly Grandma at her website www.curlygrandma.com and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information and free stationery. And you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on Amazon.com). This blog and illustrations are not to be copied or reproduced without permission from Anita Bryce.

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If it aint broke, don’t fix it!

June 2, 2010

Dear Grandparents,

Aren’t grandkids grand? Are you stressing? Or are you one of those grandparents who takes it all in stride and lets nothing bother you? After all, they’re just kids, and you’ve been there, done that. Nonetheless, with this new generation we grandparents get to meet the challenges of childrearing with a whole new perspective—with zest and willingness!

I have found that I treat my grandchildren much differently from how I treated my own children. How different? Well, I am much more lenient, more understanding, more apt to think the child knows what he’s talking about when he disagrees with me, and certainly, I am more likely to spoil these children.

I thought I knew everything there was to know about raising kids. After all, I was a teacherl for more than twenty years, and I raised two healthy, successful daughters. I should know everything there is to know about kids. Right? Not so fast.

Riley, my first grandson, was a unique baby. He was the first baby I’d ever seen that did not like food. Luckily, his mother was an Occupational Therapist and knew how to remedy this problem. He didn’t have a major problem; he just didn’t like solid foods. Even today, he is a picky eater. So, Riley taught me patience, and his mama taught me what a real teacher looks like. Watching them work together was not only new and interesting, but also like watching one of those unfolding, revealing Disney movies—heartwarming. But, Riley also taught me something else. He taught me that every kid really is different, and  he proved that my presumptuous expectations could easily be crushed.

I had been Riley’s babysitter when he was an infant, but then his family had moved away, and I was left to deal with the heartbreak of distance. But, that is another story. In this story, Riley’s parents were coming home for a business visit. So, eighteen-month-old Riley would have to spend two nights with me. Halleluiah! My baby was coming home!

Of course, we wanted everything to be perfect. Much preparation went into the days ahead, and then I got the most brilliant idea. “Angie,” I said to his mom, “I want to videotape you talking to Riley. I want you to tell him that everything is going to be OK. I want you to look into the camera and say soothing things. That way, if he cries or misses you at bedtime, we will play this video to comfort him. Then he won’t miss you at all!”

“What a great thought, Mom,” she said with her usual snappy grin. I think she even muttered something about inspiration and initiative.

Anyway, Riley’s visit went great. We played, he quietly napped, and we explored the house and yard. He was one happy baby. We even went to the library. Coincidentally, another grandmother was there with her adorable, red-headed granddaughter. They were in our same situation. The mother was getting ready to leave the baby with grandma. Helpful me told them about my great idea. “Yes,” the doting grandmother said, “I will videotape the baby’s mother before she leaves, and I will show it to the baby tonight. It’s a good thing you were here today,” she winked, “I would never have thought of such a good idea.”

The proverbial feather in my proverbial cap bloomed!

Well, that evening at bedtime, Riley wasn’t the least bit sad. He was having a ball. We wouldn’t even need Mama’s movie tonight. But. Why let such a good idea go to waste?

Riley’s big brown eyes looked up at me with curiosity as I pulled out the movie camera. “Look, Riley, you can see Mama.”

A look of sheer terror spread across his little face. His eyes, as big as saucers, shattered my heart. He grabbed the camera, put his nose right up to the screen, and bellowed out, “Mommy!”

Sobs and deep breaths echoed off the walls. Screams that begged for Mommy resonated throughout the rooms. And, I … I, the almighty, smart, know-it-all, pompous grandmother—now filled with humility and sorrow—hugged, cuddled, and comforted Riley the best I could. After an eternity of tears, Riley finally fell asleep in my arms. And, I know that you know that I did not put him down for the rest of the night.

Sure enough, all ended okay. Except of course, that my heart was forever damaged. But Riley played the next day as if nothing traumatic had occurred. And that night we stayed away from the movie camera! Nevertheless, I was so very haunted by two things. How had I been so wrong? And, how was the grandmother at the library doing?

This horrific affair taught me two lessons.

Lesson #1

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Lesson #2

It’s not necessary to do so much for my grandkids.

Sometimes less is best.

Well, grandparents, I hope you are having a good time with your grands. If you ever have to babysit them, don’t fret. You just don’t have to do that much worrying.

From the sunny side of grandparenting, I bid you farewell.

Curly Grandma

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandma with seven grandchildren.  Her name comes from her first grandchild, Megan, who learned to distinguish her two grannies with adjectives (hence the Curly). Visit Curly Grandma at her website www.curlygrandma.com and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information and free stationery. And you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on Amazon.com). This blog and illustrations are not to be copied or reproduced without permission from Anita Bryce.