Part three of my blog on “right speech.” Parenting my adult children has been an eye-opener. With the realization that my words of wisdom, motherly advice, and suggestions, are no longer as helpful as I thought they were, I’m learning a little more of what I can change and what I can’t. In the immortal words of Kenny Rogers; “You gotta know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.”
When my daughter was born, I learned quickly that she was a talker, an external processor. I always knew when she was nearby, she’d be whistling a tune, or telling a story. Her nights were full of fantastical dreams and she’d recount these to me daily including all the details, colors, and imagery. Listening intently, it was almost as if I had momentarily stepped into the dream with her. When she started primary school she came home with even more stories to verbalize. She’d come in the front door, shake off her backpack, and then proceed to follow me around the house telling me everything that happened in her day; the good, the bad, the ugly. I finally realized that I needed to be present for her so that she could get these words out and move on with her day. So, I started the habit of pulling up a chair near the front door and gave her my whole-hearted attention for the highs and lows of her day.
“Little children...Little problems. Big children...bigger problems.” A good friend reminded me one day. As my daughter became a teenager and then a young adult, the stories and the struggles became more complicated. No longer were the problems on the playground, but there were issues on how she felt about herself, anxiety, and fears. Throw into the mix social media (I’m so grateful to have grown up in the 80’s before this added complication). Add to the mix a pandemic, online school in her senior year of high school, and the sudden loss of her dear Grandy, becoming a young adult was less like a John Hughes film and more like an episode of Game of Thrones.
My daughter voiced her struggles with me freely and I continued to be the recipient, the soft space for her to fall. But, it was becoming increasingly difficult to step into the struggles and dreams with her. The challenge for me was to be the sounding board, offer suggestions and support, but then let go of the outcome.
Being that health and well-being is my business and my passion, I kept working at it; I recorded guided sleep meditations, positive mantra meditations, threw every mindfulness practice at her from my “mindfulness toolbox.” Then came the day when I looked into my toolbox and realized it was full of dust and useless old screws; empty. “My words of wisdom” couldn’t help her. I could provide other resources for support, but she had to find her own tools and carve her own path for health and well-being. Her way, not mine. Dammit.
A certain neutrality...
My grandma Martha used to say, “Oh for Heaven’s sakes”...a lot. I was a bit puzzled by this and I remarked how that phrase expresses a certain concern but also a certain neutrality. “Gosh, Martha is so Zen about a lot of things,” I thought. If someone would say, “My dog just died.” Martha would respond, “Oh for Heaven’s sakes.” Or, “I won big at bingo!” She would respond, “Oh for Heaven’s sakes.” As the years went by, this phrase peppered nearly every one of her conversations. When I asked her about this, she told me that it was because she was deaf in one ear and couldn’t hear the whole conversation. “It works for everything when you don’t know how to respond.” The next time we were at dinner together and the cousin next to her started to discuss his recent divorce, Martha said, “Oh for Heaven’s sakes,” then looked at me and gave me a playful nudge and a wink. Martha passed over a decade ago but these words of wisdom remain.
Today I listened to my my daughter discuss a few challenges, and a few dreams for the future. “Oh for Heaven’s sakes.” I replied. I looked towards the ceiling and said a silent, “Thank you, Grandma. You’re right, it works.”