As Mothers Day approaches, I have been thinking about the presents I have to buy, the wondrous gifts I am about to receive from the proud shoppers at the primary school Mothers Day Stall and the fact that breakfast in bed will probably be a quick downing of Vegemite toast and a cup of tea before rushing off to the cold and fog of an early morning football game.
But it has also had me thinking more and more about my beautiful Nanna and the fact that this is the very first Mothers Day that we wont have her with us. And sadder still, this is the very first time that my mum wont have her mum with her on Mother’s Day. Like any times of celebration and appreciation, it can also be a time of sadness and reflection for times that were or could have been. I also think at this time of how there is one child that should be, but won’t be, jumping on my bed and making me a card each Mothers Day. I think too of those friends and family who for whatever reasons were unable to have the children they so desperately wanted, and thus don’t have any little people to help make them breakfast in bed.
But I am grateful too. I am so grateful that I had my nan with me for so long. I am so grateful that all of my children have been blessed with knowing Great Grandparents. I am also grateful that my children now share an amazing bond with both their sets of grandparents, all of whom play a huge part in their lives.
Children learn so much about the world through the connections they make with people of all generations. Certainly the world to which our children live is vastly different to the world in which our parents grew up. As technology advances and communication systems change every day, each generation struggles to keep up with the next. What will never change however, is a human need and desire for interaction and connection. And one of the greatest ways we can give this to our children is to allow them to develop close bonds and relationships with others apart from ourselves, be that grandparents, aunts, uncles, close neighbours, friends or anyone with whom a special connection can be formed.
We tend to get caught up in worrying about our kids being spoilt by grandparents and worry about the mixed messages they are getting when trying to enforce our own rules and boundaries. I don’t worry so much anymore, as I have come to realise that this is part of being a grandparent. As long as the grandparent is not living with the family and undermining the house rules, then it is OK to allow the occasional ‘spoiling’ . But being a grandparent or someone special in the lives of our children is not just about buying them lots of toys and giving them lollies behind mum’s back. Being that someone special means to foster these relationships by being present, by getting to know the child, their interests and passions and by sharing their own interests and passions with the child. My nanna taught me so much, as I recalled in an excert from her eulogy that I proudly read at her funeral:
“She taught me how to bake a cake, to lick the spoon and the bowl while we made cupcakes, pikelets and her famous cheese scones. She taught me about the garden and her flowers – although not very well if you have seen my garden. She tried to teach me how to sew – again not something I went on with. She taught me the benefits of rote learning, of learning things by heart, so that a myriad of useful information could easily be recalled by reciting a little ditty, poem or song. She also tried to teach me how to sing, although not all of us were blessed with the vocal talent beset by her Welsh blood”
The best thing about grandparents is that they can also listen without judging. They can offer advice without preaching. They can love unconditionally without the day to day responsibilities of raising a child.
Grandparents also help provide a sense of background and historical context, giving children a sense of pride in themselves and their place in the world.
Children that have had close relationships with grandparents are far more likely to grow up with strong values placed on the notion of family. It is also more likely that those who had strong relationships with grandparents will grow up to see the value in helping to foster those relationships when the time comes for us to become grandparents. I know that not everyone is lucky to have grandparents around for their children, but it is still important to try and nurture other relationships for your children separate from the parent/child relationship.
“Most importantly though my nan taught me that life doesn’t always go to plan – that sometimes bad things happen. She taught me that in these times, you surround yourself with your family and people you love, and you tell yourself that tomorrow is a new day and slowly but surely, you begin to move forward. Nan had a strength that always has and always will continue to inspire me. The glass was always half full with my Nan – never half empty. She would always put a positive spin on everything and everyone. She would be constantly cutting out articles from the newspaper to show us that there are cures for every disease just around the corner. And for every negative trait we found in a person, she would be quick to point out to us their positive attributes…no matter how obscure.
One of the greatest gifts my nan gave me of course is my wonderful mum. So many of Nans amazing qualitites have been passed on to her, and I am hoping I am able to pass them on to my children too.
I remember once asking my mum why she went around to Nans house every day. And she replied “because there is nowhere else I would rather be” . Years later my own friends said to me “ how come you go around to your Nannas house every day?” And I replied “ because there is no place I would rather be”.
And this Mothers Day I can only hope that somewhere my beautiful daughter is getting all the love, hugs and wisdom from my Nan that I was so blessed to receive.