Lady Boomer Moms- Our Families Ourselves
First we were the children; then we became parents; then we became the parents of our parents; then our children became the parents; and at some point our children may end up parenting us.Given these intertwined and interdependent relationships gaining clarity about them, regardless of our age, can have a positive impact.
When we bond well with our parents, we're able to feel connected, comforted and secure about our place in our family and the world. On the contrary, to feel less bonded to our parents is to experience a relationship far more precarious.” (Taken from Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. Evolution of the Self.)Now, I would argue it is never too late to get healthy (mentally or otherwise). I don’t care whether you are 63 (my age) 83, or 33, I think a periodic examination of parental relationships can only lead to healthy outcomes. The following exercise affords just such an opportunity. In a previous post I wrote about 6 word stories as the perfect little drive-by of emotional expression. (And let’s face it the parent-child relationship is positively pregnant with all kinds of emotional dynamics. (Sorry, I’m addicted to alliteration) Read the following description of the 6 Word Story exercise. According to legend, Ernest Hemingway bet fellow writers he could write a short story in just 6 words. His companions had their doubts and wagered 10 dollars each to put Hemingway to the test. As the tale goes, Hemingway believed the resulting story to be his finest work ever: For Sale, Baby shoes, Never Worn. Whether this legend is true or not it helped inspire a whole genre of literature sometimes called Flash Fiction. The constraints of choosing only six words is freeing and could turn us all into writers. It relieves the pressure of writing a perfect story. They are a great way to capture anxiety, joy, even pain, in a succinct way. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “ “These abridged yarns do not fall into one genre, or even one tone, their only similarities being their strict adherence to the mandatory word limit. Some anecdotes are funny, some are introspective and others are down right heartbreaking.” These story prompts are parent and childhood focused, and are intended to elicit emotions, which can be written about and/or discussed.
- A funny story about one of your parents
- A story about your earliest childhood memory
- A story about something that made you anxious
- A story about something that made you mad
- A story about when a parent disappointed you
- A story about something that gives you hope.
- A story about your relationship with your Mom
- A story about your relationship with your Dad
- A story about your relationship with a sibling
I love creativity. I think it is fun turning every day activities or roles on their sides and thinking about them differently, at least on occasion. Now, one job many people my age would not consider a “task” or “job” would be grand parenting. Two of my grandchildren live “away” as they say in Maine. The oldest of our grandchildren, Austin, lives just 27 miles away versus eleven hundred miles away in Chicago. While it’s obviously more difficult seeing the Chicago clan, somehow even driving 45 minutes in traffic has resulted in not enough face time. (Speaking of Face Time! How did grandparents of yesteryear handle not being able to see those cherubic cheeks multiple times a week? Face Time is the greatest grandparent invention ever created!) So, I proposed to my husband that we conduct a campaign. After all, campaigns are our jam (business). We help candidates develop communications strategies to win votes. Why can’t we employ some of those same skills to communicate with people we really love? So…every couple of weeks, we are going to send mail to Austin and Maya.
Care Packages for GrandchildrenWho doesn’t love receiving interesting, engaging mail? I know these little ones will delight in receiving packages and notes in their mailboxes.
What to Consider Including in Your Care PackageAside from little gift treats, we are going to collect:
- fun postcards- featuring animals speaking fun facts, travel postcards, children’s illustrator postcards, and even Florida attraction postcards.
- fun stamps- Thomas the Train, The Cat In the Hat, or characters from Frozen.
- other items that we find and can share with the grandchildren along with a story of how we discovered them and why we included them in the package.
I’m conducting a poll. (Since my husband and I own a market research firm I default to collecting data when I have a question.)
So on to question 1-Within the past 12 months, have you participated in a holiday family gathering? (Of course, many of us will cite the just past Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah festivities as just such an occasion).
Question 2-How were the family dynamics at said holiday occasion? Aside from being a nosey pollster, my questions stem from an article I read in the New York Times about what they have officially dubbed “Family Jet Lag”. The following is an excerpt:
The holidays mean large extended family gatherings, hours of cooking and a group of people who don’t typically interact in person, all confined to one location and trying to act festive. It’s the reality show version of your family. When you return from your holiday visit, you may be exhausted for days afterward, finding it hard to focus and return to your regular routine. It feels as if you took the red-eye from Phoenix, but in reality it was a quick one-hour flight from Cleveland. This is family jet lag.
Ancient Family DynamicsFamilies have many emotional dynamics. Siblings who formerly shared bathrooms and bedrooms see each other once or twice a year and are now forced into similar intimate spaces in Mom and Dad’s house. Expectations for marriage, children, and career advancements thread their way into cooking conversations. Anxieties at these events are as prevalent as the pumpkin pie (and not nearly as tasty). Visitors and hosts often use precious vacation days for these holiday excursions. They are often already tired from a grueling work/school schedule, become more tired by the travel journey, and then can experience family fatigue from emotional stress. Some measure of this description resonated with me about my own holiday family experience. For the most part, joy is the way I would describe my feelings about my family gathering together for the first time in almost two years. Seeing my daughter interacting with her niece and brand new nephew, witnessing the kind of father my son has become, the opportunity to play and laugh with my BFF granddaughter—let’s say it together--priceless! But there were skirmishes in the pursuit of the perfect holiday experience. Divorced families contribute their own share of stress as parents vie for precious family time. Aside from the cooking and cleaning, six week-old babies are not known for sleeping through the night. Even with five adults and two children, exhaustion was an ever present factor contributing to this family’s jet lag. Diminished sleep, according to this New York Times article, impacts one’s sense of well-being. So what it is the solution to Family Jet Lag? I offered up a perfect solution to my children- Move Back to Orlando! Yes, uproot your life in Chicago and Baltimore and move nearby. Then you will have your own places and we don’t have to pile in on each other like puppies. Somehow, I don’t think they are going for it though. Let me know your suggestions: Please click here to take my survey on this topic.
Christmas is approaching. The signs are all there. We’ve been here before. Familiar tunes flow from department store speakers and often from our own lips; garland and gifts take over guest rooms and closets; yoga classes and movie dates are postponed in lieu of shopping expeditions hunting for perfect presents and food for feasts. We organize tree-trimming gatherings, and climb rickety ladders retrieving lights, ornaments and stockings; we watch Miracle on 34th street for the 34th time as we tie ribbons and bows around foiled packages. We often spend money we don’t have in pursuit of an ideal nestled into our memories leftover from Christmases past. Now, let me be quick to add, I LOVE CHRISTMAS. When I contemplated converting to Judaism in my former marriage, I was perfectly willing to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and spend the day fasting in quiet contemplation on Yom Kippur. However, giving up Christmas was out of the question. But, just for the sake of this exercise, try imagining a different kind of holiday, one that might not feel as harried. What would your ideal holiday look and feel like? Over the next couple of weeks Be Brave. Lose the Beige will be posting a series of tips for celebrating the holidays. I also encourage you to share your own tips. We could all use a little help with the frenzy of the holiday festivities. Be on the lookout for the first tip. (Spoiler alert- Tip No. 1- “Color Your Christmas”)
But I can't help but feel like a deserter. I'm leaving behind my husband, dogs, brothers, friends, and colleagues to protect their persons and properties. Not that I seriously think I'm all that essential to their wellbeing, but I could stand in solidarity and share in the camaraderie. My trip has been planned for a while; it has been months since I have enveloped Maya in hugs and kisses. She is learning an average of five new words a day: she is obsessed with coloring and is blossoming into an artist (something I value considerably) before other people's, not mine, eyes; she is developing her own fashion taste and a sense of humor. I don't want to miss these milestones just because I live 700 miles away. That is why I'm abandoning ship. Please join with me in praying for the safety and protection of loved ones in harm's way.I'm anxious right now. It's Thursday October 6 @ 12:30 and I'm on a plan destined for Chicago and the awaiting arms of my children and an 18 month old granddaughter. I feel almost like a refugee fleeing the approach of Hurricane Mathew as it takes aim for the east coast of my state. Meteorologists are saying Florida hasn't seen the likes of a storm of this magnitude since Hurricane Andrew in 19. Even the three 2004 hurricanes hitting Central Florida did not look this ominous.