Did you know September 8 was Grandparents Day? I no longer have my grandparents, but I reflect back on my life as a child, and the immense blessing I had having my grandmother so heavily involved in my life. I look back at her legacy and example, and it pushes me to love my own children, particularly my teenager in a time when loving can be difficult.
I remember it like was yesterday, my mind flashes back to the mid 90’s when I was a middle schooler desperately trying to fit in. I had terrible bangs, and an even worse attitude. The school bell rang and I walked out to the car rider line, head down, with my sparkle jelly shoes, and my sun-in stained hair praying nobody would see me as I made my way to the head of the carpool line.
I very quickly slid into my grandmother’s 1986 wood paneled station wagon. At the time, I didn’t think it was a very cool move that Grandma picked me up in the afternoons. However, Grandma was always there without fail; prompt and consistent – two traits I wish I had inherited.
Fast forward to 2019, and it’s a hot Carolina afternoon. I’m sitting in the carpool line waiting for my 14 year old to get in the car. My stomach begins to form that all familiar knot; that feeling of not knowing what version of my daughter I will get today. Will she be smiling or scowling? Will she talk to me or should I even talk to her? I told myself a couple days ago I was going to quit asking, “How was your day?” Because the answer was beginning to be the same thing: “Long and boring.” End of conversation.
For many of us parents, the teen years are difficult ones to navigate. You remember hearing well meaning people warning you of the woes of life with a teenager… “Yeah, they’re cute now, but one day they turn into TEENAGERS!!!”
‘Thanks for the warning, but that won’t be my kid,’ I would think.
Then one day, your little girl stops coming in your room begging to sleep in your bed because she is scared, and needs comfort from Mama. One day that little girl stops letting you wipe her tears because someone on the playground left her out. One day, the mama that used to have all the answers to all the questions suddenly knows nothing. Things change, and hanging out with mom isn’t as cool as it once was.
And. it. hurts.
Suddenly you realize your dreams for their lives aren’t their dreams, and they shouldn’t be. You realize they are going to make bad choices regardless of your influence. You realize that no matter what you say or do, it’s not enough.
Just not enough.
Not enough to get through to them, not enough to avoid mistakes that will produce pain, not enough to control the details in their life (as if I ever could, but I bought into this delusion). However, God is, and He continues to allow me to be crushed and pressed as a parent to show me I am unequipped to handle parenting a teenager, who is a victim of divorce that lives life in two very different households.
There are many days I want to throw my hands up in frustration, bur I remember a picture of grace I was shown as an adolescent. Regardless of my terrible attitude, my grandmother was there; each day, front of the line. She showed up for me, she showed steadfast love when I was making bad choices, and letting my family down, she was patient with me when I rebelled, (and stole her car in the middle of the night).
She had the foresight to see the teen years don’t last forever, and that my story wasn’t over. Why do I have such a hard time with my own child, why is it so easy to forget when you’re in the thick of it?
My grandmother has been gone for over six years now, and I miss her dearly, but I realize I have a choice to carry her legacy with me in the ways I respond (or don’t respond) when my teen is unlikable. I wish I could have just one more afternoon to ask her questions, and actually listen to her responses. I wish I had one more car ride to soak in her wisdom, sun illuminating her beautiful silver hair. I wish I had one more time to listen to a story of what it was like to grow up during the Great Depression, and World War 2. I wish I could hear her encourage me by saying, “Just hang in there, this too shall pass… remember how you were?”
I know if she were here, it would make her so proud to see me showing up for my teenager even on the hardest days, standing in the front of her line; supporting her through mistakes and disappointments.
And, really, this too shall pass.
I can’t forget to mention that by the end of middle school, I was one of the coolest people to ride home with. Grandma let us fold those seats in the Buick down, so we had one large open area with about 8 of us riding home. (I know, I know super safe.) With every turn we would fall into each other and laugh as we collided, and rolled around the wagon. I smile as I imagine what it would be like now to have one more afternoon with Grandma.