Good Granny Loses It! When Grandkids Test Your Patience
It’s not that I don’t love my grandkids—I love them dearly. Maybe I don’t want the grandkids to grow and change and this causes me to be a little anxious. I wonder, as I imagine all granny’s do, am I their favorite good granny, and how much longer will it last? Maybe their maturing minds are beginning to see me differently. I won’t think about that right now, I’ll just tell the story.
My daughter and son-in-law’s anniversary only comes once a year. Go figure. This annual celebration is a special time. A few minor glitches were getting in the way, but after a few mishaps and tweaks to their schedule, it was on. The plan: I would enjoy the tykes for a couple of days, get them to school on time, do my good granny thing. I would spend some good quality time with them on Saturday morning, then be the one to take them to a birthday party. After all the fun, I planned to drive them to the hotel on the coast where Mom and Dad were waiting for complete family bliss.
Well … nothing ever goes according to plan, does it?
I slumped my shoulders when I heard them shriek with resistant cries. “No! Please. We don’t want to stay with Granny.”
Horrified at their response that I was not the ultimate, high quality, Good Granny that I prided myself in being, I struggled to process the words coming out of their mouths.
“Why not? Just like always, we’ll have a great time.”
They frowned, fighting back the words I didn’t want to hear. “She never lets us play on the computer or watch the iPad.”
Desperate to win their favor and create the illusion that Mom and Dad’s absence would be blissful inside of Good Granny’s paradise of quality time and love, I made my case and outlined the fun.
They weren’t buying any of it.
Their faces were grim, attitudes fixed, but I was hopeful.
Suddenly, plans changed and the older one went to a ballgame and spent the night with a friend.
Horrified, the younger flung himself to the ground. As he moaned and groaned and rolled across the floor, he outlined all the reasons why he didn’t want to stay with boring Granny. No amount of cajoling, pleading, or self-sacrifice would calm the child.
What had I done to deserve this injustice? Hadn’t I been the sweetest, best, most giving and gracious granny to ever grace their sweet lives?
Hadn’t I indulged, loved, and provided all the necessary theme park trips, popcorn movie nights, and pool adventures to permanently place myself at the top of the Good Granny scale? Apparently, this is not a fixed position and even Good Granny’s fall from grace as children age out of the illusionary fantasy that cozy Grandma’s house brings.
Beware, fellow Granny’s. What lies ahead for you is a soul-searching, gut-wrenching reality. A reality that you are not the number one, the Queen Granny, the chosen. Their resistant cries will pinch and stab at your heartstrings and desire to be number one. The pulling away will wrench something loose inside you and chisel away your confidence and self-efficacy, thus awakening the agonizing feelings of imposter syndrome.
I’ll let these probing thoughts and feelings go in order to avoid serious psychotherapy and plenty of tissue.
Anyhow, once the older left us, the younger finally calmed down (of course, two bowls of ice-cream and a zebra cake helped make the transition easier. Thereafter, the evening went smooth with kinetic sand play, reading, popcorn and a movie, and the return of a sweet boy who loved his granny.
Once out of school Friday, the boys resumed their feelings of drudgery and gloom. Being outside was no fun, though I listed (quite creatively) all the fun things I had done as a child in the wide-open spaces of the outdoors. With each suggestion, they shot me down:
Basketball (he’s cheating)
Scooters (dead battery)
Swim (No way)
Pretend play (What is that?)
Hide and seek (That was in the olden days, Granny)
Disillusioned, I realized they had slipped into another realm when I wasn’t looking. Somewhere in between Lion Country Safari and our last fun-filled popcorn night both children had slipped farther from my grasp.
But I had faith that I could bring their love and admiration for Granny to the forefront with just a little prodding.
Hint: With skill and perseverance, dear Granny’s, devotion and admiration for your elders can be gleaned. But we must know the right buttons to push.
Saturday morning arrived.
I crept out my room, eager for my time alone with my morning coffee drink. I found myself tiptoeing across the tile floor as quiet as a mouse so as not to disturb their early morning cartoon ritual. (apparently each of us have morning rituals of sameness, no matter the age).
Everyone who reads my Granny blogs knows what I do in the morning. My dear, beloved grandchildren know my routine all too well.
I drink my coffee drink.
Because of my esophagus issues, I’ve compromised just so I can have the elated experience of relishing in the hot beverage without the heartburn: my cocktail consists of a ¼ cup of coffee, the rest hot water, a dash of cardamom and Carob to set the mood, then a couple of teaspoons of honey. This illusionary beverage becomes the coffee lie I tell myself.
We all make sacrifices to some extent. We delude ourselves as we transition to the change. We lie to ourselves that the experience hasn’t really been altered. This is called coping, adaptive restructuring.
I slurped the hot liquid, telling myself it was coffee, that it was divine.
I leaned back against the soft cushion of my favorite morning chair expecting at least twenty minutes of quiet, then I heard the wrestling. I tried to ignore the rantings, but their voices grew louder, then—I’m telling….”
At seven in the morning, and as though transported in an instant, the two children stood over me and argued, “I’m hungry,” the little one cried.
“I’m bored. When does the party start?” said the older.
And, so it went for the next hour, the coffee drink a dream. My body was weak, weary, truly old and showing signs of confusion without the ¼ cup of caffeine. Still believing I could hold it together, that I could make it, I told myself more lies. I’m super-granny. These kids adore me.
Outside, I begged them to play basketball, climb the treehouse, maybe a swim. After microwaving my drink for the fifth time, the illusionary coffee flavor was waning, the dream gone, the fantasy now a horrid reality of what I’d lost since my diagnosis of Barrett’s Esophagus.
I tried to adapt, reformulate, adjust to the presenting issue.
Before my thoughts could catapult into an exciting suggestion, chaos erupted.
Discontented, one pushed the other, then both were down. Crying ensued.
I did what any confused and desperate Granny would do (forgetting all my counseling and therapeutic skills), veins popped out of my neck like the Hulk, and my face contorted into a spectacle only Science Fiction novels describe.
I grit my teeth, feeling my jaw click with every word, I forced my voice to remain low but insistent. “If you two don’t stop that and like each other again, go play, invent a game, or whatever, I’m going to call your father.”
“No, please.” I knew I had them. Relieved at my ability to be the good guy, my veins deflated and began to recess into my skin.
A near miss at becoming the green monster. I blew out a long breath between pursed lips.
Just when I pulled my coffee drink out of the microwave for the sixth time, I heard the screams, the wails, the ominous cries coming from outside.
Were they in danger. Was an intruder upon us. No. That I could handle. The two boys were on the ground, entangled in each other’s arms and screaming at each other.
My chest exploded. Heat spread through my neck, moving upward, until it was too late to stop it. The monster within me surfaced. Veins burst forth and covered my neck, face, and brow. No matter how I tried to suppress the anger, I failed.
Logic disappeared as I marched toward the door, my coffee sloshing onto the tile floor as I raced toward the not-so-innocent man-children.
My eyes glazed over and without having any ability to stop myself, I called their father. Even as I dialed the number for the first time in my life, I had no regret though they were crying, begging, pleading as they insisted in how they had instantly been transformed.
Too late. He answered.
I struggled to catch my breath and silently watched as I handed the older child the phone. Knowing in my heart that after the call, things would be different, amazing, new again.
The call lasted seconds and when the child hung up, my envisioned reality was just as gloomy and dismal as it had been before the call.
They were possessed by an entity. That was it. There was no fear, no remorse, no promises of changed behavior. My ace in the hole, my life-long threat, my leverage, had just slapped me in the face. How could this be?
There comes a moment in every granny’s life when she realizes she has absolutely no power, no authority, no magic answers to life’s dilemmas. In these moments, she must (I must) face the reality that life is not linear and predictable.
Children grow and pull away.
In that moment, I realized I had to step back, scan the environment and these alien creatures for clues. I had to regroup, implement a new plan, change my armor and manipulative strategies of control.
Where had my babies gone?
Who were these children?
It was time to call up the counselor within and utilize time-tested and proven strategies for change:
Distract and refocus
Not for them, for me! I went to the restroom for five minutes to regroup, breathe, and implement every tactic.
When I emerged, the plan was to get them busy doing something else. Thank God for birthday parties, water, hot dogs, cake, popsicles, and their need to look mature in front of peers.
We arrived at the park playground nearly an hour before the party. They needed to work off some steam. Granny needed to collect her thoughts, decompress, and ponder the lies we tell ourselves about who we are, how we relate to others, and why we exist.
It was a come to Jesus moment of realization.
Granny’s, you must listen and listen well. We are aging, becoming weaker, and they know every one of our weaknesses.
They are growing, changing, morphing into separate entities. They pull away and mature, test their environments, and wait for our reactions.
I love four-hour birthday parties. They leave an aging woman time for life’s reflections … and hot coffee drinks.
I’d love to hear about your last adventure with your grand-kids, and your reflective wisdom that came with that enduring memory.
Stay strong, Good Granny’s!