Friday, April 23, 2010

Not Always What It Seems

“What is that woodpecker doing at the suet feeder?” I asked myself as I sit to write. This is probably as close as I’ve ever gotten to a woodpecker, he on one side of the window, me on the other. Why isn’t he pecking away at a tree looking for bugs? Hm.

A cute little squirrel has also found its way into my yard. Since this little critter was a baby, I noticed it had only 2” of tail, either one never developing of one missing in action. Another ‘hm’.

Sometimes things are not what they seem, especially to a child. Spending time with my sister on my trip opened many doors of conversation. She is the second child. I am the third….yes, the baby. Our family wasn’t the norm since this sister had been in bed for two years with rheumatic fever. The family dynamics were different. The responsibility of her smallest sister fell to my oldest sister. She grew up quickly shouldering duties beyond her years. My second sister hated being confined to bed yet was surrounded by gifts and toys from visitors. A hard thing for an older sister to experience. By the time I was of an age to be into trouble, I was. I always pushed the buttons wanting someone to notice me. At the Alumni Banquet I was over and over told how wonderful my parents were and how fun it must have been to live in my family. Sometimes things are not what they seem.

We sisters agreed that our parents were a product of their rearing. Raised in farm families who lived work 24-7 allowed little time or understanding of the needs of children. These families lived without electricity, indoor plumbing, cooking over a woodstove and riding horses.

So what have I learned? My sister and I talked about our children. Our successes and more often our mistakes. We shared our concerns about our grandchildren. Best of all, we found new dialogue and new awareness.

In watching the creatures in my backyard, I think of the differences in my grandchildren. Where is my awareness? What do I do to allow their individuality? Perhaps we grandparents are the guard that changes in order for us to see beyond our upbringing, family and community expectations, into our grandchildren as individuals.

One grandchild is focused, tidy and sensitive. She is a tween and working her way through it often feeling that every word said is pointed at her. The other is active, noisy, never focused, not tidy and has a heart of gold. So how do I give them the best of me?

Sydney focuses on her homework and the task at hand where Gabby focuses for about 5 minutes then gets sidetracked with other thoughts. She is just like me. I understand her. Since Syd is so easy, Gabby seems that much more difficult. However, things are not always what they seem. I find that Syd doesn’t have tolerance for her sister. She lacks the patience and concern that will be hard in coming in the future. She absorbs the attitudes and feelings of adults. Perhaps she needs to her help her sister more and become more a part of her sister’s life. Gabby needs attention (which is hard for her sister). She needs someone to help her focus and to teach her differently than we did Syd. Gabby needs to find the reasons to learn. She needs to find the fun in what she does and the pride in her work. She needs one on one. Syd is a prize, but feels that she is ignored when her sister gets the attention she needs. Work. It takes work. I balance the time I spend with each trying to give them both what they need, teaching them to have self-esteem and opening doors for them to make their own decisions and discoveries. It is work. I didn’t work so hard with my own. I wish I had. I was vying for my space too often unaware of what I owed my children. What in the world matters more?

The woodpecker has moved to the chimney flue. Now he pounds away at the metal tapping out a tune that I could do without. He is indeed a weird bird. The tailless squirrel has disappeared on its merry way doing what squirrels do best….burying nuts in my garden. I am amazed at what I learn by looking and listening. I am awed at what I do not know. The uniqueness of these critters allows me to study the uniqueness in my granddaughters. Doors of conversation with my sibling help me grow into a better grandmother changing herself in order to change our history of child rearing in our family.

It is a good day. It is a new beginning. I think I’ll see what I learn today.


  1. Wow. This post resonates with me on so many levels. This: "I was over and over told how wonderful my parents were and how fun it must have been to live in my family. Sometimes things are not what they seem." ... I read this three times. I could have written it myself. They seem like words plucked from my own heart. So often I have experienced the same thing, the same well-meaning words from speakers who simply just don't know. It's a difficult thing to deal with because the response has to be, "Thank you" ... and then you move on, and the residual feelings in your heart ache with the unsaid. I am so thankful my sisters and I have reached the stage where we can discuss these things openly, with humour, with love, and with acceptance and understanding.

    Your granddaughters will hopefully one day realise that a sister is the greatest gift life can bestow. My own daughter wishes with all her heart that she had one. She has two brothers, but it's not the quite same she says. In my heart, I know she's right.

  2. Like Nana Jo, I feel I could have written those words. I did have wonderful parents, but they were never as warm and loving as people imagine they were. They were too busy earning a living and taking care of the household. They could be impatient, brusque, critical, just as I sometimes was as a parent. We're all human. It's best to keep the pedestal for stone figures, not human beings.