Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Maximum mall bangs

Prompted by my sister's joy at meeting her newest grandchild yesterday, I've been thinking off and on all day about the differences between parenting and grandparenting and how much easier the latter is. I don't know whether the difference lies in an increase of patience as we grow older or a decrease in responsibility. After all, we grandparents can hand the kids back at the end of the day.

One specific Saturday with my granddaughter stands out. She was eight years old. She'd stayed with me the night before, and we were headed to the movies to see Beethoven, a Disney movie about a St. Bernard. She had her picture taken at the movie theater that day, her head resting on the back of a live St. Bernard that was there for just that purpose. I wish I had that picture to prove my point, but I'm sure she took it home with her that evening.

Up until that day, if she stayed with me, she'd let me do her hair before we went out. That time, though, she told me she could do it herself. She opened her suitcase to show me she'd brought all the necessary equipment. I loved her beautiful hair, blond and hanging to the middle of her back. All it needed, I thought, was a good brushing, and she could certainly do that.

Wrong! She stepped out of the bathroom with her hair looking as bad as I'd ever seen it. She had teased the front into the most atrocious pile of mall bangs you can imagine and sprayed them to stand about five inches high above her forehead. The thing was, though, when I was finally able to tear my eyes away from those bangs and look at her face below them, I saw a beautiful child who was positively beaming with pride. She thought she looked wonderful. That was all I needed to know. The bangs stayed. I told her how proud I was of her that she could fix her hair herself, and we went to the movies.

If either of my own daughters had botched a hairdo at that same age, I'm sure I'd have stepped in to redo it before I let them out in public. They might have messed it up later, but by golly, they were going to walk out the door looking good. I wonder now if I did that for them, or if I did it because their appearance might reflect on my motherhood credentials.

By the time my granddaughter came along, how she felt about herself was way more important to me than what strangers at the movie theater might think of either of us. I wouldn't have burst her bubble of pride for anything in the world.

In my own childhood, my mother was the critical one who pushed me to do better, and my grandmother was the one who just loved me the way I was. I preferred the unconditional approval, of course, but the things my mother taught me were important to my becoming a civilized human being with a modicum of socially acceptable behavioral skills.

If I came to any conclusion today, it was this: mothers and grandmothers have different roles to fulfill. Working together, we provide a pretty good balance.

Five generations in 1984: L-R, my mother, my grandmother, my granddaughter, me (speaking of big hair), my younger daughter.


  1. Agreed Agreed Agreed. But let me add (although I dont yet have a Grandchild), Mothers can really mess things up. Mine did and still does. I believe that children are such amazing creatures and to watch them develop into amazing people is such a privelege that we should walk very tenderly in their lives. Criticism can be felt easily through years of training and I am a testiment to that. It is so easy to shatter self esteem in a young person and to do so is a form of abuse. I think our jobs are to guide and to gently encoureage those things that will ease a child through social life.

    I also think that the reason I think this is because of my childhood and how rebellious I was and how damaged I became.

  2. You made a very good point, Snuffy. I don't think "criticism" is part of a mother's role, but I do think mothers get stuck with more "correcting" than grandmothers do.

  3. LOL!! I can just see that hair!

    My daughter, now 18, has always been a person unto herself! I found out, early on, that no matter what I did, said, or tried, her originality was doomed to prevail!

    She started dancing at the age of two; she danced for 14 years, until the studio closed. Early on, she knew exactly who she was, and how she was going to present herself.

    I made her this little green ballet skirt that she proudly wore EVERYWHERE with EVERYTHING!!! Pink shirt, green skirt; purple shirt, green skirt; swim suit top, green skirt! It didn't matter what she was wearing, any trip to town had to involve the green skirt! Oh, and the lovely pink tights, to boot!! LOL! My sister-in-law still talks about those
    "humiliating" trips to town!

    How wonderful it is that our children have those little minds of their own. How more wonderful it is when we allow them the freedom to use them!

    Today, she is an intelligent, outspoken, well-mannered, well-dressed (!), respectable young lady with hopes and dreams I'm sure she will fulfill. Did she evolve into this person because she was allowed to "be herself" early in life? I doubt it; but, I surely wouldn't have had it any other way!


  4. I like the way you showed how the roles change and how most often when a parent says, "your not going out like that" it has more to do with a bad reflection on them than a building up of the child's self esteem. But I think you hit it on the head when you described a change in purpose as grandchildren come along. Watching your children raise their own can give a good mother positive feed back because she can see all her hard work being put to use.

    I truly believe that a mother can either build up or tear down with great benefits or consquences. It seems that althought people have issues with their father the mother issues seem to be those that stick the longest and hardest. I say seems because I'm not an expert but in what I've seen its mother issues that really seem to stick with people. It's almost half way expected to have father issues as well as mother issues but the mother ones seem to be the strongest.

    Austin (no hair spray for me please.)

  5. I remember my dad telling me to get my bangs out of my eyes or he would cut them off-this was in the early '70s and I had a shag. I knew he had a point, but that was the style-or what I thought was the style. Soon after that, I had them cut shorter. I have to confess I had very little sense of style-I distinctly remember dressing in a multicolored shirt and white/gray/yellow plaid pants-because they were both my favorite items of clothing-and my mother telling me I wasn't going to go out of the house dressed like that. I've gotten better at color coordination, but I'm never going to make the cover of Vogue.

    That's a bunch of fine-looking women in that picture!

  6. Thanks Velvet, I really enjoyed this story. I suppose when I become a Grandmother, I can make up for the "wrong-doings" I put my kids through. Being a mom is by FAR the toughest job I've ever had, if they only came with a owners manual.

  7. As for mothers and grandmothers (and even Aunts), I think it takes as many who have the willingness in their hearts. We all have something to add, something to give.

    The bang story gave me fond memories. When I had my head shaved, I thought I looked fantastic (as in cool and rebelious and there's no way anyone would ever know my big secret that I was at the time an official 'Young Rebublican' - Ha, some rebellion). One Thanksgiving vacation, Dad's mom was visiting and she told me I looked beautiful. Dad was exasperated. "Mom, do not tell her she looks beautiful. She used to be beautiful. Now she looks like someone with a shaved head."

  8. I think we just get a lot wiser as we get older. I worry about my Grandkids maybe more than I did about my own Children because I have no control over them, they are at their parents mercy, which I sometimes think is not in their best interest. I try to step back and say to myself but they are the parents...then I step right back and say yes but I raised them and I must have done something wrong...

  9. no advise about grandmothers but glad for miss velvets photo even if it is a long time ago.

  10. Priss, I loved your story about your daughter and her green ballet skirt. I'll bet she knows what a great mom she had. My granddaughter was a skirt girl, too, when she was little. She'd try on a dress and spin around in a circle. If the skirt didn't fly up and "whirl," she didn't want to wear it.

    Austin, you're right about the mother issues. My father was an absentee. In later years he felt really guilty about that and apologized over and over for it. I could never seem to make him understand that I'd never considered his absence a big deal. It was all I knew. Mother, on the other hand, was always there. She's the one who interfered with some of my greatest ideas (not!), made me account for my whereabouts, told me what she thought about my smart mouth, etc. And you know what she got for it? I had major mother issues for years. I tried to tell my dad that if he'd been around, I probably would have been mad at him, too.

    Janet, you and I must have been cut from the same (plaid) cloth. Put something comfortable on me, and I'll wear it. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to afford a personal stylist?

    Schremsgems, wouldn't you think there'd at least be a written test before parents are presented with an infant to raise? Actually, as my girls approached their teens, I was feeling pretty good about my parenting abilities. Then the first one turned 14, and OHMIGOD! For the next few years, I was convinced I must have been an abject failure as a mother. And then, a few years later, they turned all wonderful again. Who knew?

    Duly Inspired, you're right, of course. It's been heartwarming to read about the relationship you've had with your niece and nephew. It seems to me that there have been several times in your recent life when you've had to step up to fill unfamiliar roles--and it seems to me that you've found the wherewithal to do it. Kudos!

    4th Sister, I don't know if it's wisdom or just experience; whatever it is, it's helpful. You may not have "control" over your grandchildren, but I'll bet you'd be surprised to know how much "influence" you have over them. That can go a long way, too.

  11. Patsy, you sneaked in on me while I was adding a comment. The photo IS old. Ten years after that, I'd look in the mirror and see my mother. Now, I'm starting to see my grandmother in the mirror -- though not yet the 88-year-old version of her pictured here.

  12. Velver, I am 51 and have been seeing my Grandma Gaddy in the mirror for 20 years!


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