Do you ever hear a voice chiming in your head, warning in strident tones: Don’t do it! Don’t do it! And then you ignore it and do it anyway? You know the end of the story, right? The rest of the day passes in a blur of self-inflicted flagellation. “You fool! I told you not to do it! What were you thinking?” Sigh.
I am a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. Not to mention sister, daughter and friend, but this is not supposed to be my eulogy, so I will stop here.
Now that my nest is empty, dare I admit how I love my freedom, the ability to come and go as I please, to nurture the part of myself I barely knew when I was entrenched in the hullaballoo of endless feedings, carpools and homework. I am one of the rare individuals who doesn’t look back with a wistful gaze and wish I could re-immerse myself in the lively, hectic chaos of yesteryear. These golden years are alluring, and I am enchanted by new vistas yet unexplored.
One memorable afternoon, I was halfway out the door when the phone rang. Don’t get it! the voice warned. You need to get to exercise class on time or they will close the doors! But something in me wavered and I retraced my steps and grabbed at the phone.
“Hi, Mom!” Jenna called, sounding breathless. “I’m so glad you answered! Would you mind if I dropped Andrea and Stevie off in about 15 minutes? Just for a couple of hours, okay?”
I stopped dead in my tracks, watching my cardio-interval class take wings and soar beyond my reach.
The words sizzled inside me, smoking as if roasting on a grill. It’s really not okay, I wanted to say. I have a life. I need notice! I can’t just be dumped on whenever the urge dictates.
But will Jenna and Barry be angry with me if I refuse? Maybe watching my grandchildren takes precedence over an exercise class. And do I want to stick thorns in our relationship by saying “No!” to them?
What’s a Grandma to do?
Flustered and Befuddled Grandma
Dear F&B Grandma,
The very fact that you are troubled by this dilemma is eloquent testimony to your devotion. You are clearly involved with your children and grandchildren and see that as part of your role. How beautiful to nurture a close family unit!
Yet, as with any relationship, boundary-setting is vital – and healthy. Acquiescence, while harboring resentment, conjures a picture of a majestic mountain atop an unseen, yet volatile volcano.
What would happen if you gently explained the situation to Jenna?
“I’m so sorry, Jenna, but I was just heading out for an appointment.” I advocate ambiguity in this instance for the sake of peace. Not everyone understands how vital exercise is to one’s overall well-being. “I can call you when I get home and we can arrange a time, okay, hon?”
Jenna may be angry. She was counting on you to come to the rescue. But she has learned a valuable lesson: Grandma is a person and deserves to be treated with courtesy and respect.
A more positive scenario would be that Jenna, a mature adult, completely understands your situation and doesn’t feel upset at all.
“No problem, Mom,” she says, breezily, and you can hear the smile in her voice. “I just thought I’d try because something unexpected came up. Have a great day.”
Obviously, if the last-minute request stemmed from an emergency, the encounter should proceed in a completely different direction. Jenna should explain that an emergency cropped up, and in that instance, you will certainly drop everything and make yourself available. Because, after all, what don’t we do for our children?
Open dialogue and lucid, transparent communication can work wonders. Combine that with Grandma’s famous chicken soup and what can possibly go wrong?
Here’s to Grandma power!
Wishing you all the best,