A few weeks back while we were enjoying our holiday break, I was seated in a common area of a family friendly gym we were visiting. My boys and husband were finishing up the last bit of their workout, and I had a couple of minutes to myself. As an introvert immersed in the middle of a family vacation, any alone time is cherished. I picked up a community flyer and leaned back into the cushions. I was trying to send out a friendly-but-please-don’t-talk-to-me vibe. It worked. Soon an older woman sat across from me and we exchanged pleasantries. She seemed to understand I wasn’t in a chatting mood. A few moments later, an older gentlemen joined the common area. He knew the woman seated across from me and they began to get caught up on each other’s lives. It wound up being extremely interesting.
The woman started the conversation. She talked about how her grandkids had been staying with her. You would think that she might be pleased by this, but she wasn’t. She didn’t have many nice things to say about them or about how her daughter and son-in-law were parenting them. She was on quite a roll. When she finally paused and took a breath, she turned the conversation over to her acquaintance. She asked about how his grandkids were. He went on to describe how they were all doing well. He was gracious to note that yes, the parenting style of the younger generation sure was different from how he chose to parent, but overall he thought his kids were doing their best.
The woman didn’t really listen to him. She went right back to complaining about how technology and over scheduling were extremely harmful to her grandkids. She had a lot she needed to air out. I was actually surprised by some of the personal information she was declaring in a public area. She was getting very angry. I silently hoped she wasn’t seeing either her grandkids or her kids later that day.
The man took in all of what she said and I think he sensed he would not win this battle. He simply listened to what she said and wished her well over the remainder of the holidays. At that, his wife walked up and together, they said their goodbyes and left the building.
I learned so much listening to their exchange. One side was judgmental and had a lot of ‘right vs. wrong’. The other side was accepting. It wasn’t about who was right, but it was about how to live in a more harmonious way. I appreciated that while the man may not have agreed with everything his kids did as parents, he supported them. In turn, it sounded like they had a solid, healthy relationship.
Family relationships are often our hardest relationships. We sometimes are faced with relatives who are diametrically opposed to our parenting style, our political beliefs and how we spend (or don’t spend) our money. There are so many ways that we cannot see eye to eye with family members. Honestly, the list of ways to disagree could potentially be endless. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could accept each other as is?
In ‘The Tale of Two Grandparents’, who would you wish to be?
Choose carefully because that will be the framework for your whole life.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent