Kickass Grandparenting: Insurrection

I lay in bed this morning trying to think of a compelling opening for a blog post. That bit a blog follower sees in her email or that shows up in the Facebook link that is supposed to make the reader unable to resist opening it. (Or delete it, unread.) I’ve got nothing.

Then I put off getting up, the first of my three mornings a week alone—when I’m not guiding Pandemic School—trying to get my head around what I might want to offer after the opening, and I started crying.

This has been such a hard week, at home and abroad. I know I’m not alone. I try not to swear, but “WTF” seemed to be the only thing in my head the past two days. (And, okay, I don’t try that hard not to swear; I have a lot of ground to make up for at 68, not having uttered a swear word for the first forty years of my life.)

The week at Pandemic School started well. We’d all had a two-week break, after all. Except for the moms, they never get a break. I had a new plan to help the Littles be kinder and to help Elliot get his school work done and theoretically spend less time on a screen, between on-screen class. Every time I caught them doing something on the list we made together they got to move a cotton ball from one jar to the other, the goal being to fill the “full” jar and deplete the “empty” jar. Their reward being popcorn and a movie (I know, screen) after school on whatever day the jar got full. I got to move balls for myself too. My reward being 88 minutes of non-involvement.

Like all the other reward systems we’ve tried since the second week of September, it worked great. This time for exactly 1.25 days. They earned their reward Tuesday mid-morning and were done with that shit, the idea of starting toward a second reward lost on them.

Then the internet went out. Wynne enjoyed her unplanned break from teaching and used the time to get her “classroom” in the room over the carport cleaned up. Emma used a hotspot and continued her endless Zoom meetings. Elliot missed one whole-group class, one small-group session, and his individual time with his teacher after school. I missed my 88 minutes. And had to keep both of them simultaneously entertained all afternoon. I did get them out for a walk in the woods, under duress. Like me, they forget they will be glad when they do it. (I have been out by myself every day for the past six days. Go me.)

When we hit the trail they argue over who gets to be in the lead (I really prefer to accompany them one at a time), but are more often working out the concept of negotiation and taking turns. I am happy to bring up the rear and let them figure out which forks in the trail to take. I’m gratified that, in the woods at least, they are learning to listen to their inner compass.

After dinner Tuesday, I retired to my quarters and watched election returns, biting my nails as the lead in Georgia changed from blue to red. It was back to purple when I went to bed and I slept pretty well, confident it would be a November repeat of mail-in ballots from Democrat-leaning counties still being counted. When I woke up on Wednesday, sure enough a win for Raphael Warnock had been declared.

We moved just four cotton balls all Wednesday morning—as I said, that brilliant idea being done—as the election totals for the remaining Georgia race remained fixed. The promise of Tuesday’s lost movie becoming Wednesday’s movie almost kept the morning sane. And Jon Ossoff was declared the winner in Georgia. But that soon was forgotten news too.

I turned on MSNBC during my lunch break to check election news and watched in horror and disbelief as the crisis at the Capitol was beginning. After lunch, Elliot cried that his work was too hard and he was “not going to do it and you can’t make me!”; and Adrian called me a loser because I couldn’t do “our pretend stories” with him right at that very moment because I was trying to encourage Elliot—in a beautiful teacher-like moment if I do say—and legislators were told to take cover under their desks and put on the gas mask under their chair. (Who knew there were gas masks under their chairs?)

When the boys refused, loudly, to go outside, I wanted to scream at them that they had just lost their damn movie! But I didn’t. That would be bad teachering and worse grandparenting. And I wanted my 88 minutes to watch real life drama, which I did, screaming in my head that this could not be happening; but pretty much anyone could have predicted it, except, apparently whoever was in charge of making sure it didn’t happen.

I have written and deleted paragraphs here about the insurrection abroad, which fought in my chest for attention with the insurrection at home. I’m leaving it all deleted. There are many stories and spins on what went down, why, how it compares to the unrest six months ago, and what to do about it. I don’t think anyone, and certainly not I, has the only story.

One thing I do know, insurrection is not inherently bad. I’m not saying what happened on Epiphany should have happened; but since it did I hope it can be used to see what is in need of a rethink. Just like rotten trees fall in the woods when there is storm, I hope the storm at the Capitol will join the one all across the country six months ago in a come to Jesus moment. (Oh, and don’t forget the pandemic, which would have been an excellent opportunity for the bad guys at the Capitol to hide their identities from the cameras, but they were too stupid, or cocky, or whatever. Sorry, my story. Delete.)

So back to kickass grandparenting, which does not feel kickass lately. I have watched a full course by a psychologist on working with challenging children. Makes sense. Sure, I can do that. Sounds easy. Not. Armchair quarter-backing. But it’s another tool in the box. You can’t build a shelter with only a hammer.

And, FYI, I really did not tell my beloved grandson he was a brat, as he later accused me of—after he asked me what a brat was; great, now I’ve taught him a new word to use against his brother, or his mothers, or me—but I can see how he heard it that way. In another effing growth opportunity (for both of us), I apologized to him for losing my temper, and told him I should have taken a deep breath before I spoke instead (see #6 above). Then I left the house alone, since they refused to go with me, walking away from the conflict (see #1 above).

I don’t know how I can keep doing this. I didn’t know how I could continue living with my mother, either. I do know I can’t stop doing it until it’s time. Now, as then, this is where I need to be, contributing what I can to my family. It’s not ideal, I’m not perfect; and if everyone is okay with imperfection, I’ll keep working toward being the best I can be and let the rest go. I am enough.

Be gentle with yourself, and with one another. These are hard times.

23 thoughts on “Kickass Grandparenting: Insurrection

  1. This is very well-written, Gretchen. I know that the perspective of time will help me write down what I felt, which I have not yet done, and I think you have expressed yourself in a very measured way within a week of horrifying events. I can’t help but be amused by the comparison of “insurrection” by small people. I am puzzled by their resistance to going outside, but maybe it is because they know that you want them to! Is it possible to send them outside alone, one at a time? Just to play “in the yard” or something? To be by themselves and told that if they want your company, they will have to ask nicely?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. They do like things to be their idea, it is true. (Not unlike elderly mother care.) And there’s no iPad outside; and the older one would rather be mad that he can’t watch it than do something else fun, like go outside. Very frustrating. Hopefully he will outgrow that when his frontal lobe is better developed! Thank you for writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the things I love in your writing often/always is the juxtaposition of the intimate and the personal with the macro around us, and with such detail and honesty. I must confess to not understanding what you meant by “insurrection abroad”.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah. I was trying to imagine what insurrection overseas you were referring to. My misinterpretation. Now it makes perfect sense. You are courageous writer.

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  3. Multi-generational exhaustion… the fraying shows up in each of you in unique ways. And the boys are too young to process it, to know it’s a stage, to take a long-view (when you are 4 and 6 that’s a pretty impossible task)… so it falls to you and the moms to hold on and process for them/with them/with each other. This week has been a firehose without time to swallow, and I am amazed at your capacity to make story out of the chaos. Huge support and love.

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  4. We might not be doing our best. But we ARE doing better than our worst. One day at a time is all we can do. We appreciate you so much. We know you are tired. We all are. Even the littles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah shoot! I forgot that! Yes, we are doing way better than our worst. Yes, we are all tired, even the Littles. Being of service to all of you keeps me going. I won’t abandon you. I, at least, get weekends off. And I promise not to play the elderly card. Sort of promise. 😀

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  5. I feel sad that you haven’t really had a lot of time to process all of this on your own. It’s all such big stuff and it requires that we tap the reserves. All of it is big. Covid, quarantine, an assault on democracy. Each of those on their own are almost too much to bear. Be gentle with yourself my friend. You haven’t just stepped in to help. You’ve chosen to keep the tanks of others full and that is a far nobler deed than you’re describing. You ARE doing your best, and despite the messiness that is life right now, it’s more than enough. May you find some peace today ♡ 

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Time feels really spacious on Fridays! Haha. I have to be careful not to commit myself to anything much other than what I can do on Friday and Saturday. As Emma said, and I forgot, “We are all doing better than our worst.” Yes. That.

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  6. Dear Gretchen,

    This is a courageous, honest and, yes, inspiring blog. Inspiring because of how honest it is and how so many of us feel in the same boat—adrift and even helpless. And then you remind us of other impossible times—like living with your mother—and we think of our own examples that we have lived through.

    Bravo, dear! And, I pray for some resolution on the homefront scene—at least a religious, regular appearance of those 88 minutes! Love, Ann

    >

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, dear one. We’ll try cotton ball therapy again on Monday! “Where is the evidence that you won’t survive this?” There is none. We can all do hard things. Including Elliot, as I pointed out to him this week when he drew a snowflake after saying he “felt like a failure.” (My most excellent good moment!)

      And look at you! Leaving a comment on the site. Go you! I’m about to respond to your post.

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  7. Wake up in the morning. Say to yourself, “Wow! I got through yesterday, and here I am still alive today!” Next morning, repeat. Which is what you did with Mama.

    Liked by 1 person

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