Can you tell it’s me? Jenna drew a picture of me. Her mommie labeled the pictures for her. I am on the top! Cece. Yay! Just below and to the left is her Auntie Ivy. A self portrait is in the center. To the right of that is her “Grammy”, her daddy’s mom. On the bottom right is her brother Kasen, and, somehow, Kasen’s brand new kindergarten teacher made the grade and got in the love fest. Hope she knows how painful this is for those of us who have invested years!
I don’t care what I look like. I made the line up. That is what matters. Others probably would have made the line up, too, but she ran out of room on the paper. Even when I am not there with her, Jenna is thinking about me. And to top it all off, she wanted to FaceTime me to show me the picture she drew of me. What more could a grama want? I am so grateful to live close enough to my grandchildren so that I can see them often enough that I am in their heads. Of course, others might argue that I am in their heads because I am certified crazy and difficult to forget. There is a reason this is called Gramasylum. But I choose to believe the place I have in Jenna’s head is a result of the place I have in her heart.
Some have it some don’t
It does not take certified craziness to get in their heads and hearts. It just takes time and attention. Focused time and attention. I loved my mother dearly and she loved my children, but she did not know how to be with them. When they were babies she would cuddle and love on them. But once they started to move around, talk, and have opinions and express their wants and needs she was not tuned in. You know how toddlers love to “give” you things. They have something in their hand and they toddle over and offer it to you, hand it to you. Then, of course, they usually want it right back. Its a very important part of learning to interact and to give and take and to express and learn trust. My mother did not understand this. When one of my kids would give her something, she would say “No thanks, I don’t want that.” Or, “No, you can have it.” Not the end of the world for my children, but missed opportunities for her for sure in the early development of getting in their heads and hearts.
The key is focus
It doesn’t take a degree in developmental psychology. It is common sense. It takes focused time and attention to get in their heads and hearts–to develop significant connections with them. The key word is focus. Here are some helpful hints to focus.
Hint. Don’t try to do two things at once. Don’t try to read your email or text messages or watch television and put a puzzle together with them. Give them and the puzzle your full attention. Don’t just go along with it, make it fun and educational. Talk about the objects or characters in the puzzle as you put the puzzle together. One of our favorite puzzles is a dinosaur riding a bicycle with colorful plants all around and a volcano, too. Its become a mantra now. As we put the dinosaur and bicycle together we say, “What?! A dinosaur does not ride a bike!” We review the colors as we put the pink polka dotted palm tree together, and find the white clouds for the sky. The green and yellow striped grass is a dead give away for the location of some of the puzzle pieces. Then there are the edge pieces and the corners. All the shapes and colors and configurations make a simple puzzle a veritable classroom of learning! It takes months of putting this same puzzle together over and over again before they grow tired of it. And even then, there are times when the older grandchildren like to go back to this puzzle and do it again. Doing email or texting or watching television while putting the puzzle together will rob you of the time to really connect with these young minds and hearts. And they will get bored with it a lot quicker if you are not all in.
Forget a clean house
Hint. Forget a clean, neat house. Let it go, let it go. After they are gone you can focus on picking up and cleaning up. While they are with you expect your house to look like a hurricane went through. They are NOT adults. They will not play with the same thing for hours at a time (unless it is a computer or IPad or IPhone!!). They may not even make it through putting one whole puzzle together. The Barbie and Ken dolls and all the accessories will be strewn through two or three rooms. The Legos will be in various stages of construction the entire time they are at your house. The coloring, play dough, and painting table will be a complete mess. But think of all these spaces as learning and laughing and loving stations. Just go from station to station laughing and loving and learning. I guarantee that you will get in their heads and hearts.
Now, I do believe children can learn to be responsible at a very young age. When they are two to three I do help them begin to learn to clean up after themselves. But we do it together usually singing a song. “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody does their share.” Two or three times through and all the Barbie and Ken parts and pieces are in the bin. When they get older, competition gets them every time. “Ok! Let’s see who can pick up the most Legos!” Bam! Clean up done!
Forget your dignity
Hint. Forget dignity or decorum. Forget yourself. Be into them. Don’t care about what you look like or sound like. Tap into that child that still lives inside of you and let that child out! Let that child play with them. Be the monster they want you to be. Sound like Barbie or Ken when you are playing Barbie and Ken. When you play hide and seek pretend you can’t see them even when you see them right away. And be over the top dramatically surprised when you finally find them. This does not cost money or take any equipment. It takes focusing on hiding and finding. And, it takes letting go of dignity and decorum. Don’t be self-consciousness. Be kid conscious. They will play hide and seek for a long time if you remain focused. And, oh, you do have to be able to count to ten.
Summary just in case
Don’t multi-task. Give them your full and undivided attention. Don’t worry about a clean house. You can clean after they leave. And, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks about you. “Does she know what she looks like when she does that?!” “She sounds like a fool!” “Her house is a mess!” Yup. I look crazy and sound like a fool. And, my house is a disaster when they visit. It’s where I choose to live so that my grandchildren will draw crazy pictures of me even when I am not around. It is crazy wonderful, crazy love, and a crazy life. It is Gramasylum, after all.
Here it is up close. Now can you tell it’s me? She knows me and is thinking about me. It’s perfect.