Reader's Question: "I am a 62 yr old grandmother, and my 3 yr old granddaughter loves being with me. I wasn't well-mothered or grand-mothered, and was ill-prepared to be a mother or grandmother myself. My husband and I made many mistakes raising our son, who rebelled at sixteen, left home during his senior year, and at 37, is struggling with drugs and alcohol to this day. His daughter is a precious, loving little girl. I want to respect and understand what she feels and be fully present with her, and don't want to repeat the mistakes I made with her Daddy. I'm especially concerned about how to control my temper and patiently guide her when she makes mistakes, as we all do. Where do I begin? I feel so inadequate."
That said, as you pay attention to your own process and your own journey, just begin by acknowledging when you don't handle something the way you wanted with her. You're repairing the relationship, which helps you both, but you're also modeling for her what to do when she makes a mistake. Begin with "I'm so sorry that I lost my patience (or whatever it is that you're acknowledging). Let's try that again." And you can back up or rewind like an old tape (literally, if you'd like, as silliness can really help break our own tension and the tension between us) and do it again the way you wanted to do it. We ALL have those moments and we often think that we're just totally messing things up. But what I have come to realize is that those moments when we "mess up" and then reconnect create a very strong glue in our relationships.
Sometimes you may not know what you could have done differently in the moment. Sit with it and ask the question, "What could I do in that moment to CONNECT?" Practice it in your mind. It really helps. Your mind doesn't know the difference between something that you're imagining and something that is happening, so it is a PERFECT place to practice the way you'd like to do things.
Patience is challenging for all parents. Begin just by being aware of yourself and how you're feeling. Give yourself the space to step away when you're losing patience and breathe. Do something that is nourishing to you- go outside, sing, play some music, dance- with or without your granddaughter. Own it. "I need to do something different for a few minutes so I can really be with you and have fun." And then let her know what you need. If you can shift the energy together, then invite her along. If you need relief for a few minutes, give that to yourself.
I want to acknowledge the relationship that you have now with your son and the difficulty I am hearing he is having in his life to this day. The best thing you can do is to forgive yourself, knowing you did the best you could at the time with the information and support you had when he was growing up. He's an adult now and he's on his own path. As you learn to connect in new ways with your granddaughter, it might surprise you that you see new ways that you can connect with him, as well, if he's open to it.
By the way, I LOVE hearing that your granddaughter LOVES being with you. That says a lot about your connection already. Remember that now.
Rebecca Thompson, MS