When I go to the grocery store these days, I've begun taking one of the four youngest with me on a rotating basis. It gives me some one-on-one time with them and they think the grocery store is fun. Saturday was G.'s turn to go with me. We were having a nice time and I was showing G. how the carts work. (We were at Aldi, where you have to put the quarter in to get the cart and when you return it, the quarter comes back out.) So, I am waiting while she figures out how to attach the chain to get the quarter back out and a nice man passes by and says something about how proud her grandma must be about her helping.
I admit it took me a moment to figure out he wasn't talking about my mother, but about me. By this time, G. had retrieved the quarter, so I (sort of) smiled at him and we went on our way. Now, no one likes to be mistaken for your child's grandmother, but since I really and truly don't think I look old enough to have a 7 year old grand-daughter (humor me, here, if you think I do), the incident has had me thinking about what caused the whole mistake.
Here's my conclusion. Grandparents interact with their grandchildren in a way that is different from parents interacting with their children. Think about it, when you think of how grandparents interact, it is usually all about the relationship and not about a to-do list. It is one of the beautiful things about a child's relationship with their grandparents, that sense of time. Grandparents, having raised children are keenly aware of how short the time actually is that they have with these little people. They know that life has a tendency to throw curve balls and that much is out of their control. They know how precious the time with children actually is.
Parents (and I'm speaking in generalizations here, people), in the thick of raising children, often have a little more difficulty seeing the bigger picture. They love their children and want what's best for them. They want good things for them. They want them to grow up to be successful adults and they take the responsibility very seriously. These are all good things, but it also means that taking time and enjoying the moment often takes the back seat to getting things done and worrying about not failing at this parenting-thing.
I know I have written more than once that one of the greatest gifts of having children a little later in life and having nearly grown children when also having babies is that it is so much easier to see the bigger picture with the littlest ones. I know my oldest were little just yesterday and it truly did go as fast as everyone warned me it would. I sometimes feel I missed out on some of those oldests' childhood worrying about things that now, looking back, doesn't seem terribly important. I try to be mindful of that when parenting these younger ones, because I know that will wake up tomorrow and they will be 20.
But back to the grocery store. There is a marked difference between how I take children to the grocery store now and how I did it in the first half of my parenting. Admittedly, the biggest difference is that now it is my choice to take a small person. I have enough older children at home that I can run out and do shopping alone if I need to move quickly... or need a quiet break from children. And by making it a choice, I can enjoy it more. Now, I have certainly had my share of unpleasant shopping trips with children. One particularly bad one, where I was in a hurry and short-tempered and A. and P. seemed to be particularly squirrely, saw an older gentleman gently remind me that they were just children. I don't think I was particularly receptive at the moment to his comment, but was internally chastened because I knew that I was being particularly impatient. While that moment was unpleasant, it has stuck with me and the memory will rise up again and again when I am acting short-tempered. Blessings on that man, though I really didn't appreciate it at the time.
All of that is the long backs story to me waiting patiently while G. figured out the quarter and the cart, and where I was mistaken for her grandmother. You see, I think it was because I wasn't acting like a mother... in a hurry, impatient, focused on the task before me... but like a grandmother... taking time, appreciating the relationship, smiling.
I wish I could say that I am able to always put relationship above to-do list all the time, but I'm not. It is a really good goal to have, though.
I have another article up: Homeschooling and Diversity
We are at Day 102 of delays caused by the state of Illinois. I alternate between incredibly depressed, incredibly angry, and incredibly hopeless. It's not a fun place to be and I think about it all day long. I feel as though I have ended up in a circle of Dante's hell. J. feels as though he is in the a trial put on my Kafka.