Grandmotherly Advice to My Younger Self

For the last few days, I have been rereading a journal I kept in 1976-1977 and sharing my absurd mistakes with you. This is a post advising my younger self on apartment living with young children.

  • Do not leave a three-bedroom Manhattan apartment costing $350 a month and move to Bangor, Maine, 450 miles away from grandparents who are now 20 miles away.
  • It is not possible to recreate a childhood 60 feet by 270 feet backyard on a 6 by 46 feet terrace on the 20th floor.
  • Take them to grandma’s house more often, where they can climb trees, play softball, play volleyball, learn croquet, learn to garden.
  • Forget about the terrace sandbox. The terrace is not the beach.There is a sandbox playground right outside the house. Sand in the house is unbearable. Visit grandma and take them to Jones Beach.
  • Keep the swimming pool but detach the hose once it is filled up. By the time they figure out how to attach it, they might be less interested in watering hapless victims 20 stories below.
  • Confine messy art projects involving glue, finger paints, tempera paints, play dough to kitchen or terrace. Buy somewhat fewer art supplies ; I don’t need enough adequate for a nursery school.
  • Buy fewer toys and concentrate on sharing toys.
  • Get outside every single day when the temperature is above freezing and maybe even then. Children love snow, rain, wind, fog.
  • Be firmer about naptime and bedtime.
  • Use babysitters more. Take advantage of grandparents’ offers for weekend breaks.
  • Continue part-time editing, if only a few hours a week.
  • Only do housework, cooking, laundry, shopping when the kids are awake and involve them from the time they are 1.
  • Try harder to confine food to kitchen and terrace. Accept I will not always succeed..
  • Do not take toddlers to playgroup five days a week.
  • Try harder to contain smaller toys like legos, blocks, little people, doll furniture, puzzles in the playroom.
  • Respect my limits. Don’t try to be mother of the year. Know when to say enough.
  • Most importantly, make more time for us as a couple. Always putting the children first gradually eroded our marriage and laid the seeds of the divorce, which was infinitely more traumatic for the kids than if we had left them more.
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About maryjograves

Children are my passion. I have 4 daughters, 5 grandkids under 5 with another on the way, 5 younger brothers, 11 nieces and nephews, 8 great nieces and nephews. I advocate a revolution for a child friendly US. I have been an editor, public librarian, social worker, and internet educator. Tweet @RedstockingGran @ChildrensWings
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6 Responses to Grandmotherly Advice to My Younger Self

  1. kit says:

    so much to read when I am supposed to be grading papers and preparing for class! About the housework issue (from a few entries back): I think of this as one of my biggest parenting problems — that I really suffer if I do let things go. I come from a long line of tidy, in-control (on the surface that is) housewives, and I now have a practically in-born need for a certain level of order in my home (isn't there a term for an environmentally-influenced trait that becomes genetic? something other than 'mutation'?!). Of course my standards have lowered since my children were born, but still I recognize that there are moments when I'd be a better, more present and patient mother if I could just ignore the chaos around me whenever more important things were going on — like a child expressing a need, any need….

  2. I had to learn not to try to be better than I realistically could be. If order matters, don't try to change into a nutcase like I was. Trying to ignore chaos when it is driving you crazy, will not make you a better, more patient mom; it will just make you an angrier one, more likely to yell at the kids. With my younger, more cooperative kids, I had some success keeping the chaos out of the living room, which helped.

  3. deb says:

    I don't always put my children first but my husband and I have almost divorced over our differences over the kids. He's a hard ass and I'm more of a doormat but I would fight to the death for any of my children and I don't think my husband would. He's a pessimist about the future of our children which I find difficult to deal with. I believe that one day they'll get their acts together and be great people. It just takes time. He on the other hand seems ready to write them of now. It's frustrating.

  4. thordora says:

    My husband and I are learning to do more of that last one. Especially with the BPD, it's SOOO important.

  5. radical mama says:

    Yeah, we need to get better on that last one. We recently went on our first date in 18 months. Yikes.

  6. Looking back, I neglected my first husband's needs and my needs in my concentration on the girls. Neither of us was very good at asking for what we needed. In the first five years of our marriage, before children, we had taken advantage of all the richness of New York City–plays, ballets, concerts, operas, museums. After kids we told ourselves we could no longer afford such luxuries, but we certainly could have bought fewer toys and children's books. John and I had similar interests and values, but very different personalities. When we stopped sharing interests, our different personalities began to eat at our marriage, particularly after my return to school and work left us very little time together.

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