Saturday, March 15, 2014

What Our Grandmothers Can Teach Us

Every year March 15, my birthday, comes around, I can't help but think of my Grandparents. My mother's mom, who we called Cor, had her birthday the day before mine, March 14. Many times, we celebrated our special days together. My mother always told me Cor prayed and prayed that I would be born on her birthday. Not quite...but close!

I often think about my grandmothers, and everything they did as mothers. My dad's mother had 7 children, and Cor had 5 (all girls!). I hear stories from my parents about the kinds of meals they made, the activities they did, and the special gatherings they had. Children played outside all day, unsupervised, free to roam through the neighborhood, fields, and woods. They climbed trees and swam in lakes. They made play forts out of sticks and mud. There were no computers or smartphones or iPads. It all sounds so magical to me, as if it took place in some far off distant land, once upon a time.

 I wonder how my grandmothers would be different if they were moms in this day and age. We can no longer allow our children to wander far from our sight for fear of safety. Sticks and mud have difficulty competing with computer games and television. Children are no longer children: due to rapidly growing access to information, they know things (good and bad) that were never even on the radar of kids back then. The temptations they face are far different...instead of fighting the urge to eat that freshly baked cookie or throw a stick at their older siblings, they now internally struggle as to whether or not they should send "sexts" to a boy they like or verbally bash a friend on facebook.

Please don't misunderstand me and think I'm implying that technology is a bad thing, or that children and mothers 50 years ago had it so easy. Technology is wonderful, if used correctly. And our grandmothers had much different challenges they faced that no longer affect mothers today at all. But I look at the way things are now, and I can't help but worry for my children.

I am a grown woman (although I don't act like it...), and the lure of modern technology is sometimes almost impossible for me to ignore:

"I should use this time to pray right now...but that show on Netflix looks soooo good..."
"Wow, I really need to clean my kitchen. But I just got a Facebook notification!"
"Isn't the weather outside GLORIOUS? Oh, that reminds me, I meant to do some Google research on cloud patterns!"

What scares me is that if I am so affected and easily tempted by technology, how can I expect my children to face the same things? They are tiny people who do not have the same amount of self control that adults do! So when I freak out about this sort of thing, I often think:

What would Grandma do?

When it came to raising children, my grandmothers did not sweat the small stuff. They understood that there were things they could indeed control, and others they couldn't. In the end, they had to allow their children to make mistakes. They let their kids climb trees, knowing that there was a possibility they could fall. They understood that, although it was probably full of germs, that puddle in the middle of the street would probably be fine for the kids to play with. Is it possible to have this attitude with technology? Can I just teach my children well and hope that they make the right decisions? Hope that nothing terrible happens to them?

I think: yes and no. Keep in mind that you should take my opinion with a grain of salt...I have a 14 month old, so the issues I deal with in raising children are much simpler than this. Perhaps when Elizabeth gets older, I will look back at this post and laugh at myself for my naiveté. But at this point in my life, based on my own experiences and experiences of others, Here's what I've concluded so far:

1) Children do not yet have the maturity or decision making skills that adults do, so it is imperative that I have strict guidelines and rules regarding their use of technology (especially computers). Have you seen some of the stuff that's on the internet? SCARY. I would like to preserve their childhood as long as possible.

2) That being said, I can't completely shelter them from every possible bad thing out there. Even if I tried, it would be impossible. I have to allow them, at some point, to show their understanding of right and wrong, self control, and good decision making. 

Maybe it's a paradox. I don't know. Maybe I'll figure this whole scary issue out as I go along. I've found that so far in parenting, I have no idea what I'm doing, and Elizabeth is still alive. So that's good...

I guess that's how my Grandmas did mothering. Maybe they, too, were flying by the seat of their pants, having no clear idea of what to do. Maybe they figured out things as they went along. Maybe we aren't so different after all?

I hope that my Grandmothers would approve of how I am raising my children now. Because I do know one thing: there's nothing quite as disheartening s a disapproving Grandma:

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