As grandkids Return to College, we can all learn a thing or 2

07. September 2017 Parenting Guide 0

Nothing says regular over the first day of college. That is why my son and daughter-in-law, a.k.a. the parents, moved their brood in their new home this week though they still do not have a kitchen and the paint is not dry on a few of the walls. Ever since selling their old home, they were camping out in our location while my husband and I fled city, pleading urgent work commitments three time zones away.

The parents were too busy taming chaos to fret about Grade 1 jitters, so I was doing it for them. What’s a granny for, if not to be worried about her children and grandchildren, especially from a distance? When I FaceTimed on Labour Day, I found all three kids in the tub being scrubbed up by mama, who had been imploring them not to splash too much since the grout was still wet.

Daddy was wandering around the empty chambers, stressing that the hotplate he’d arranged, in the absence of a kitchen stove, might not arrive before the week was out. Another grandparents, who were imported from out of town to babysit while the parents put up beds and moved clothing, toys and who knows what else from our home, had taken up exhausted refuge on the front porch and were sipping a cool beverage or two while anticipating another call for reinforcements.

I silently thanked whatever deity may be handy I wasn’t available to pitch {}, refrained from enquiring about the condition of my house and glanced at my watch to determine if it may be time to uncork a drink of my own.

Neither of the twins, who are 6 and entering Grade 1, appeared keen on the notion of creating new friends, getting used to new teachers or being put in separate classes in order that they could individuate — a mental concept initiated by Carl Jung and much touted as a pedagogical principle. Roughly, Jung thought that individuation is the practice of integrating the conscious and subconscious minds to the Self. To put it differently, the work of being a self-determining individual.

Parenting and education specialists, such as Joan Friedman and Christina Baglivi Tinglof, have captured the concept and applied it to twins and other multiples due to the inherent bonding that begins in the uterus. They suggest a delicate balancing act between respecting children’s natural affinity for one another and encouraging them to create separate personalities and abilities.

Our women have always shared a room, worn different garments and been in distinct classes, but I have watched as one twin stands back while the other pushes ahead socially or one asks her sister to decode paragraphs in a narrative instead of work it out for herself. Their relationship means they don’t appear to squabble as much as other siblings. “That is because they gang up on us,” my son says.

Being a duo boosts the premise that the women share the very same attitudes, talents and abilities — a point that was underscored by their little brother. We used to laugh once we watched him sitting in his high seat, swivelling his head out of one older sister to another because he believed they were the identical person. He understands the difference today, and so should family and friends, which is another argument in favour of individuation.

But theory is only intellectual gobbledygook if it leaves a child bereft and lonely. “They will adjust,” opined my son, reminding me that military families go all of the time. I remembered the injury of my first day of school: The feeling of abandonment as my dad walked out of the classroom while I was held with a strange woman who insisted she would not let me go of me before I calmed down.

One of the twins had experienced an equally rough beginning to kindergarten two decades ago, but by the end of the first day, she had recovered enough to complain that her teacher had not taught her to read nonetheless.

As I scrolled through the first-day-of-school images others had posted on Facebook, I guessed that the women in the clothes they’d picked out the night before — one in a white dress, another patterned — walking into their new school in a rambunctious and inviting parade, three generations strong, and I knew they’d be fine. You can not build resilience without facing risk or setbacks, as Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant write in Choice B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.

The man who needs a jolt of resilience is granny. I’m most likely to live another few decades. I wish to do that with a busy mind, so I am going back to school together with my grandkids. As neuroscientist Lisa Genova, the writer of Nevertheless Alice, explained in a recent TED Talk, “every time we learn something new, we’re strengthening and creating new neural connections” which builds cognitive reservations that could help us stave off the mind-numbing effects of Alzheimer’s.

Forget crosswords, she says. That is about retrieving information you’ve already stored. Learn a language. She proposes Italian, but I have decided to dust off my execrable high-school French and sign up for courses to update my language, enhance my grammar and increase my conversation skills.

Apparently, the parents are thinking about enrolling the women in a similar program. Perhaps we could do homework together. I guess they could teach me a lot.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail


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