Cycling Time………

We have always wanted a pond in our garden.  We planned one for the garden in Kansas and moved before we could get it done. In Illinois, visiting grandchildren started digging in 2007.

Alice and friends

What with one thing and several serious health setbacks for another, the pond was not completed with plants, flowers, backfill, landscape flagstones, tadpoles and goldfish until this past spring. Our granddaughter Alice has spent part of her summers with us the past three years. She helped move dirt and flagstone the past two years.

When grandchildren visit, we plant flowers and vegetable gardens, play games and take walks, cook and bake, take field trips to museums and aquariums’.  The time I spend with them carries on the family tradition of connecting generations. The continual renewal of this generational connection is part of the same cycle of growth, dormancy and renewal we find in our gardens.

My grandmother Dorothy had a wonderful garden in her yard. I helped her weed and plant and transplant many different kinds of flowers and plants. When I was a young wife and mother, we lived next to Grandma Dorothy. My children had the opportunity to see Grandma almost every day. They were in the garden with us a lot.

She told me of going with her mother to visit her mother. While they talked, my grandmother would cross the yard and visit her great-grandmother in her garden next door. Her great-grandmother shared stories of when she was a 12 year old child living in Virginia during the Civil War. My grandmother listened and learned while spending time in her Grandma Mary Jane’s garden.

This continuous cycle of learning and listening and loving is made possible by the generosity of time and sometimes material investment of the parents of the children. I want my daughters and son-in-laws to know how much we appreciate them sharing their most precious gifts with us. My time with my grandmother is still a blessing to me. I hope my time with my grandchildren is a blessing to them.

Today is my daughter Jami’s birthday. Grandma Dorothy watched her trying to keep up with her sisters. She laughed and called them Big Bit, Middle Bit and Little Bit. Grandma always made either a lemon or chocolate sheet cake for birthdays. We would play games and talk and be together. The memories we created are priceless.  Birthdays mark the passage of time and are symbolic of our personal life cycle.

Happy Birthday, Little Bit…….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Grand Parenting…….

A baby shower is such a fun place to be. A longtime friend of mine is becoming a grandmother for the first time next month. The gathering of family and friends to share food and gifts with the new parents-to-be was this afternoon. When the new mother-to-be was 5 months old I gave her a first taste of the joy of ice cream.  Times were different back then. Introducing foods slowly and being careful about sugar, eggs and preservatives were not even on our radar screen.

My friend asked me how being a grandparent is different than being a parent. I think there is a more relaxed joy in welcoming this new little person into your life. Certainly there is less accountability for the outcome most of the time. A grandparent has already experienced the child life stages so is generally more relaxed when the new baby cries, the toddler throws a tantrum, the adolescent has a crying jag and the teenager spouts vows of hatred.

Parenting is like a journey without an updated map, filled with the scramble and stress to find the most useful updates before they are obsolete. Grand parenting is less stressful and less of a scramble. You and your grandchild update the map as you travel.

Here are a few guiding principles to being a grandparent;

1. The feeling of love for a grandchild is often instantaneous and  overwhelming. I think the lifetime act of loving a grandchild requires effort and action on the part of the grandparent.

The first definition, by Merriam and Webster Dictionary, of love as a noun, is “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.”  In Merriam and Webster, love as a verb is “to hold dear: cherish” and “to like actively” as in “take pleasure in.”  This may mean kissing baby necks while making funny noises, dancing to the oldies while holding tiny hands, crawling around Discovery Zone tunnels, reading a wide variety of children books and/or watching adolescent angst movies about vampires, werewolves and the teenagers who love them.

2. Have conversations with the child’s parents regarding the role of a grandparent, or grandparents, in the life of their child.

Set up boundaries and guidelines with your child (see Parenting is a journey without an updated map…. above) and their parenting partner flexible enough to accommodate both parenting and grand parenting desires. Be sure and repeat back to them how you see the boundaries and guidelines unfolding. They might have a different vision than you.  Repeat this guiding principle as often as necessary. It helps if you spend a little time thinking about what kind of grandparent you want to be. Talk it over with your co-grandparent partner, if you have one, and/or other grandparent friends. Remember your own grandparents and your children’s grandparents? What did you like? What did you not like?

3. Whatever the age of the child their needs, wants and desires are important to a positive, healthy, loving relationship with you.

Pay attention to your grandchild’s cues, physical and verbal, and respond with sincerity. Make time to sit down and play with them.  Tea parties, storming the castle and Go Fish are part of my repertoire.  

These basic guiding principles will serve you well on your grand parenting journey. You might come up with a few more as you and your grandchild update your map. Your reward is lots of hugs and a lifetime of love.

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


A Rose by any other name might be Myrtle…

The name Susan is derived from the Hebrew word for Lily. The root for Lily in Hebrew means “to be joyful, bright and cheerful.” My dad wanted to name me Sylvia Kay. Sylvia comes from Latin and means “from the forest.” My mom wanted to name me Susan Lee. My baby book actually says Susan Lee. My birth certificate says Susan Kay.  There were, obviously, spirited conversations over my name.

My mom’s name was Betty Ann. My grandmother told me that she named my mother Betty and my aunt Mary because she really did not like nicknames. She thought people should be called by their given names. The name Betty is a nickname for Elizabeth. Elizabeth is derived from the Greek Elisabet which is a form of the Hebrew name Elisheva, meaning “My God is an oath.” Interesting.

Dorothy, Betty, Myrtle, Susan

My maternal grandmother’s name was Dorothy May. She did not like Dot or Dottie. She would say “Call me Dorothy.” She did have one long time friend she allowed to call her Dot. I remember thinking she must be a really good friend. Dorothy comes from the Greek Dorothea meaning “gift of the gods.” My grandmother was a “gift of the gods” to me.

My mother’s maternal grandmother’s name was Virginia Myrtle. She was called Myrtle because there were already cousins and aunts and great-aunts using the names Virginia and Ginny.  She never liked the name Myrtle at all. When her granddaughter was named Janet Virginia, GGMA tried to pay her grandson to call her Virginia. According to the website MYRTLE is “simply from the English word myrtle for the evergreen shrub, ultimately from Greek μυρτος (myrtos). It was first used as a given name in the 19th century, at the same time many other plant and flower names were coined.” GGGMA, Arbelia Harriet, named her daughter after her own sister Virginia and a flower……..

 ©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved