Confessions from a Nana:: Three Life Skills I Wish I Taught My Kids

I love being a Nana mostly because I am content to do nothing else but soak up my grandson’s presence. Every time my daughter asks me to spend a few hours with him I find such pleasure and delight in the simple exercises of reading to him, giving him bath, or walking him. But as a young mother I never quite embraced the joys of being present in the moment. Being present was grueling. I longed for and sought-after things that would be more satisfying. It was hard for me to see the significance in the mundane duties and responsibilities of parenting. I admired those who were not only present with their children but knew to intentionally parent them.

As a young mother in the early nineties, I was slow at learning this particular lesson. While the “present” parents ensured their children wrote thank you notes for every gift they received, I struggled to get my kids to write their spelling words.

My kids are all adults now, young millennials, productive and contributing citizens, but a recent conversation with one of my daughters makes me wonder how this ever happened. Apparently, I never taught my daughter to “wash her face” as in with cleanser and a washcloth. How I overlooked that, I am not sure, but her allegation was a reminder to me that children are a blank slate. They learn only what you teach them {or what they pick up from friends, other adults, television, social media, and the internet}.

Of course, my kids growing up in the nineties couldn’t google to find the answers to all of life’s questions like “how to wash a face.” While kids today have quick answers at their fingertips or by simply yelling “Hey, Siri,” what they need and want are shared life experiences with parents. I wish I had been more aware of this when my children were young and been a more intentional parent.

Clothing Maintenance

I regret never teaching my children how to use a needle and thread. For all the times that a button needed to be sewed back on a shirt or a pair of pants hemmed, it always seemed easier to do it myself. Sewing isn’t hard to do either, so I have no excuse for neglecting this area of child-rearing.

On top of that, apparently, I never taught any of my children to iron a shirt. I remember ironing loads of shirts for my husband, almost weekly even. Yet, I failed to instruct my kids in the art of transforming a wrinkly mess into a beautifully crisp garment. I do remember, however, reaching my limit with the laundry upon finding dirty clothes piled atop last week’s neatly folded ones. Soon, all my children were washing their own clothes as teenagers. While I’d like to say I spent the time to teach them how to wash and dry efficiently and effectively, I’m not confident in this recollection either. If it’s not too late, here are a few tips:: cold water for colors, warm for whites and do not over dry your nice clothes. Lay them out to dry or hang them, so they last longer. And, of course, do not mix darks with whites!

Healthy Eating

This topic feels more like a confession than a regret, as I still work hard at establishing and maintaining healthy eating habits. As a working mom, I had little time for meal planning and food prepping. Instead, I did what was convenient and quick; this often-meant fast food or simple, easy meals. A busy lifestyle was an excuse for someone who never found much joy in planning menus, grocery shopping or cooking. I did work hard at making everyone sit at the table together for dinner. Although, I must have slacked off “family dinners” after my older children left for college as my youngest hardly remembers our times together at the table. Unfortunately, my aversion to cooking robbed my son of some of the best childhood memories, “dinner talk”. This is an excellent opportunity to engage with your children by talking about current affairs, discussing family values, or coaching them through life challenges. I have wonderful memories of sitting around the table with my parents and siblings as a child debating, analyzing and expressing thoughts and opinions.

If I could do it again, I would involve my children in meal preparation and focus on the “why” and “how” to healthy eating. I would be less selfish and more giving regarding setting aside time for family dinners. Also, I’d work hard to merge healthy eating habits with healthy family time.

I have learned that establishing good eating habits is one of the best things a parent can do for a child. It sets them up for success in a multitude of ways. Healthy eating will likely lead to the ability to maintain a healthy weight. A healthy weight can often lead to positive self-esteem, which in turn leads to self-confidence and the willingness to try new things. Had I understood the positive impact of healthy eating habits, I would have been more intentional in my parenting as it related to food.

Money Management

I had a very warped view of money as a young adult. My inclination in writing this post now is to blame it on my parents rather than taking responsibility for my own issues. My parents never had much money even though they worked hard their entire lives. Looking back, I recognize that I grew up with a fear of it because it was always beyond our reach and the lack of it kept my mother in such a miserable state. As a parent, my unhealthy relationship with finances impacted my ability to train my children in money management skills. Eventually, I began to acknowledge and confront my fears and could, with my husband’s help, advise my children on budgeting and planning for the future. However, I regret not empowering my children early on with an understanding of the pride money can bring to our lives. I know, now, that children can appreciate the thrill of accomplishment in earning money, the joy in giving to others and the satisfaction in deciding how earned money will be spent or invested. Leading children in developing a healthy relationship with money will foster security, promote opportunity, and inspire appreciation of its value.

Contemplations

The truth is that even without intentionally teaching my children all these skills, they have grown up to be successful, intelligent, compassionate human beings. I am thankful and proud of them for that. But beyond these skills, I wish I had been more intentional about inviting my kids into my world, about sharing what I know and understand about life.

As a driven individual always moving from one project to the next, I often forget to slow down and to be present. On the occasions when my children chastise me about something I may or may have not taught them–like washing a face or doing laundry–I am more disheartened at the thought of where my mind or heart might have been at that time in my life. My reflections are reminders to me to embrace precious moments before they become missed opportunities, to continue to be present when I’m with my grandson, to share life experiences every chance I get.


 

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Rebecca M., a mother of three successfully launched adults and recent grandmother to one adorable baby boy {Barrett, 12 months old} has enjoyed working with children her entire life. Over the course of her career, she taught nearly every grade level from preschool to 8th grade in private and public schools. Rebecca’s love of children and passion for education lead her to a ministry of supporting young mothers by providing quality childcare. She now directs BELA, BridgePoint Early Learning Academy, a preschool program for infants through pre-kindergarteners. When she is not busy babysitting her grandson or managing BELA, she enjoys writing, gardening, swimming, and planning events. Married to David, her biggest supporter, friend, and companion for 31 years, Rebecca considers the strength of her family to be her number one life accomplishment and finds her greatest joys come from pouring into the lives of those she loves and serves.

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