Maybe you’re encouraged to be more engaged and present with your children and grandchildren, but could you actually say you know HOW to be present with family?
How to be present.
When I read Lisa Genova’s latest book Left Neglected, I was deeply moved by the power of a reconciled relationship. Without giving too much of the plot away, I would like you to consider how valuable a mother who is present for her children and grandchildren truly is. Additionally, we’ll discuss how to be present with ways you may have never considered.
One summer, the common thread of conversation at parties and family gatherings weaved grief with curiosity. Whether your name is Mom, Nanna, Oma, Baba, or Grandma, you have an important role to play in giving a legacy to your family by being present.
On that note, I’ve got plenty of resources on building a farming legacy, including this post where I discuss how to plan your farm legacy.
Unfortunately, grief spasms come when women are not allowed to fulfill their roles as a mother who is present. These are the teary-eyed sisters and friends who relate their angst about not being able to be with their children and grandchildren. I see this as a disturbing trend among the new generation of parents.
Farm family roles are challenging when they evolve. This is how to navigate these transitions.
Now, I have to ask the big question: “What is this really about?”
In Genova’s book, the mother returns to the relationship with her daughter and grandchildren after the daughter’s brain injury. Crisis and tragedy are not the best tipping points for change. But unfortunately, that’s sometimes the only motivator for things to be different.
Would it be possible for you to see the problem of not being able to connect with your family as a challenge that needs to be solved, rather than whining and complaining about your daughter or daughter-in-law and her unreasonable boundaries? If you have no idea why you aren’t being allowed frequent access to your children and grandchildren, how are you going to find out the “why?”
- Are you judgmental?
- Do you have some “self” work to do first?
- Is there an underlying mental health issue that isn’t addressed?
As a farm family coach, I meet many moms who are trying their best to be a decent mother-in-law. Their intention is not to cause harm or conflict, but to “help.” The next generation sometimes interprets this intention as “interference.”
Is this your case? What needs to happen to re-align everyone’s honest intention for the relationship to be reconciled and flourish?
The path to reconnecting.
When conflict is avoided or left unattended, the small irritants can bubble under the surface until a “little thing” becomes huge.
I encourage you to start the path of re-connecting by embracing an attitude of curiosity.
Start with a conversation with your adult child to explore what they want from you as a parent. Ask where you have made mistakes or caused offense. Let them know that your intent is not to be a curse or to blame their parenting style, but that you want to be a “present” parent, who is a blessing to them and their children.
Tried that Elaine, it didn’t work.
I hear you.
You might just want to see if you can have access to the grandkids on neutral turf, like a vacation spot for a few days. Can you write them emails or chat with them on Skype? If you are totally blocked off from connecting, how about doing some work with a counselor about nurturing yourself in different ways. Pray for a breakthrough. Write letters of love that you keep for the future.
A lasting legacy.
Use your creativity to think of ways to leave a lasting legacy for your family.
Utilize these tips for how to be present with your family.
- Be a woman of strong character who stands up for what is right, and is true to her cherished beliefs.
- Document what characteristics and wishes you desire to have carried on to the next generation.
- Create intimate friendships and connections with folks who truly care about your well-being.
- Nurture yourself and “to thine own self be true.”
- Read Extreme Grandparenting and find ways to spoil (in healthy ways) your grand-kids who you can connect with.
- Take out that role sheet and plan for better ways of self-care, marriage care, and friendships with family, friends, and community. Ask yourself what you might be neglecting.
I’ve read books about women who were highly independent then brought to their knees with a brain injury. They encourage me to pay attention to the hurriedness of my life, and consciously slow down before a crash. I have a coaching friend in New Zealand who was kicked in the head by her horse. She now lives a very different life, treating her brain with care, and resting often.
Now, I don’t want you to feel like you’ve been kicked in the head. Especially not when you think about your need to matter and the reality of rejection from those you love. Instead, I encourage you to evaluate the problem and seek a solution. Be kind to yourself in the process.
Gather emotional support from those who care about you. Seek out professional resources to counsel and guide healing in the relationship.
In August 1998, my mother’s asthma attack left her in a coma for two weeks until she died. I miss her. Ultimately, reflecting on her life reminds me of how having a present mother is a special gift.
Whatever field of activity you find yourself in, I wish you deep joy in knowing that your legacy of love matters as a woman who sees the importance of being present for her family. Focus on the strengths, character, and skills you possess. This will help you become a better, more present mother to those who appreciate your “grandness.”
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This article was originally published on July 5, 2016, and has been updated.