Transitioning from parent to grandparent, Let the show run

For Twenty five years, I wrote and directed original musicals for young children.  I created a theatre program in an alternative school and had a cast of 200 children ages two years through middle school.  Because I wrote the shows, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to create and because I also incorporated the children’s ideas and dreams, I often ended up with a very different end product than the original creative idea.  However, during rehearsals my style was to interrupt and guide and correct.  “Speak slowly, clearly and over pronounce your words” was my mantra.    Move this way, sing that way, try expressing emotions this way.  I gave notes on the spot, correcting and guiding as we went.  However, I remember very clearly one show night, the kids were entering and not remembering how to center themselves correctly.  My director hat went on and I jumped out of my seat, and I started guiding them into their proper places. My assistant director calmly grabbed my arm and encouraged me to sit down.  She helped me see that for better or for worse, the show was running, and I had taught them everything I could, but for that moment, I had to sit down quietly, take a breath and let the show run.

It has taking me quite a while to realize that grand parenting is very much like this.  You teach your kids everything you can.  Do this, not that.  You correct and judge and tell them to wash their hands and be quiet, and wear their seatbelts and teach them to be nice and show them an easier way to do things.

As parents it’s your job to keep them safe and keep them honest, and keep them happy and healthy.  You tell them what to do and when to do it.  Go to bed, brush your teeth, finish your homework, help with the dishes, be nice, eat this not that, check your mirrors when you drive.  And then suddenly, they leave home, they go off to school and jobs and their own lives and their own relationships and their own homes and cars and businesses and kids.  Suddenly you are in a very different position.  You still want to protect them and help them  to not make the same mistakes that you fumbled through.  You try to warn them, there’s a hole there in front of you!  Be careful, please!  I fell in that hole!  There it is- I see you heading for it, PLEASE LISTEN!  But your warnings fall on deaf ears.  They won’t listen.  They get mad if you try to bring up any advice.  They want to feel as if they can handle everything without you.  And just like the hysterical mother bird who’s fledgling just jumped out of the nest and can barely  fly, you hover and still try to guide them to a safer place.  You still try to feed them and protect them.

During each stage of parenting, I grew as I learned one thing after another about raising children, and now after all those lessons learned wouldn’t it be grand if someone was interested in what I had to say!  Some species of baby birds  may leave the nest only two weeks after hatching, however they rely on their parents to feed and guide them for up to two months!  And  research now indicates that the human brain does not fully develop until age 25 !  Yes, it would make us grandparents feel needed and respected  to be asked for advice, but as  Betty White voiced in the title of one of  her famous books, “If you ask me, ..and of course you won’t .”

Shortly after my son left home, he said, “ Mom, I want you to know that you were a really good Mom, you did everything  right, but now you’re done.”
 “ What in the world are you talking about? “was my response.
“You’re finished” was his reply.  (Meaning it was time for him to run his own life.)

I understand now what he was trying to say to me, but back then all I could say was something like, “ I will never be finished, I will always be your mother and you will always be my son.  It doesn’t matter how old you are.”

But now I understand,  I did do everything I could to be a good mother and now he is a parent and it is his turn at the wheel.  Just like when I was directing, once the show started, I had to sit back quietly, take a deep breath and let the show run.

And now,  though I might want to guide and direct and give advice about my grandchildren, I have to take a breath,  and even though it is excruciatingly difficult, I have to sit back quietly and  let the show run.

2 Comments on “Transitioning from parent to grandparent, Let the show run”

  1. Words of wisdom are not always easy to swallow or follow.

    And the show will go on, whether we like it or not.

    • Dear Peg,
      This is SO true and it seems that learning to be a grandparent is an extension of the parenting learning curve. We all receive different challenges and many of them are about letting go. Thanks so much for sharing your clever wisdom, and also thanks for your interest.

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