I have five absolutely gorgeous and delightful teenaged granddaughters, ages 13 to 18, who live nearby. It was so simple to interact with them when they were little girls, happily playing dress-up or making mud pies. But the days of ribbons and bows and little froufrou dresses are over. I sometimes struggle to maintain the same intensity of interaction now that they are in their teens.
Generational gaps have a way of widening without warning. I already have the reputation of needing to be "protected" from some of the pressures of their teen-aged world. More than once they’ve said: "We didn’t tell you because we didn’t want you to worry."
Recently, clever girl that she is and knowing that Papa and Mema speak French, our 18-year-old granddaughter asked us how to say "breathe" in that language. She wanted it tattooed on her wrist. Well, the three of us immediately became engaged in a deep discussion about how "breathe" could best be translated, have a nice ring to it, and still convey the meaning of remembering to breathe, i.e., to give yourself some space. Later, our daughter asked us very politely if we realized that we were giving our lovely granddaughter tacit approval for a tattoo. Uh, no… We didn’t. That had gone completely over our heads.
OK, so what’s a grandma to do? Just how is it possible to retain a viable grandparently presence that my granddaughters think is "cool," without it being interpreted as Mema meddling. That’s my dilemma!
Could it be they simply need an environment where they can "remember to breathe"? A temporary escape from their teen-aged world of injustices, peer pressure, jealous classmates, embarrassment, puberty? A refuge from demanding classes and teachers, boyfriends, new-driver classes, fender-benders, jobs, interviews, auditions, recitals, movies, texting, Twittering, Facebook?
Does grandma really need to be "protected" from their reality? Especially when they’re the ones who occasionally need some refuge from their whirlwind, often confusing lifestyle, and grandma might just be one of their only safe havens.
I don’t think so. If the ambiance created by grandparents is blighted by the usual generational misunderstandings and shocked reactions, teenagers won’t want to "hang out" there. I’m thinking a lot more can be accomplished by providing an inviting space for them, emotional or physical or both, where they really can "remember to breathe."
A safe place where they can feel free to unburden if they want to, or just close the door and read Harry Potter. They are not naïve. They already have a good idea of what I would approve or disapprove of. I’m not sure how much spoken "guidance" they really need from me, unless it is solicited. They get plenty of guidance at home.
More importantly, maybe in some small way, finding refuge with grandparents could also help them understand that Jesus is also always there to provide breathing room for them in the midst of life’s troubles. He literally did just that for a 12-year-old girl and her parents almost 2,000 years ago.
When Jesus entered the home of Jairus and his wife, it was filled with mourners playing funeral dirges on flutes and people clamoring, wailing, scoffing and fretting. Inside a back room lay their beloved only child on a bed. She was dead.
Jesus shouted above the ruckus, telling them all to get out. Only Jesus, three of his disciples, and the parents remained. By ejecting the crowd, he had given the hassled and grieving mom and dad room to breathe. Then, in a calm, non-judgmental environment, Jesus bent over their daughter, affectionately took her hand and told her to rise up, to breathe once again! Not missing a beat, he then encouraged the astounded and joyful parents to give her something to eat. She was hungry after her ordeal. And I don’t think Jesus meant for them to give her sprouted bread and Brussels sprouts. I think he meant for them to give her something special. Something she really liked, maybe a first-century version of mac and cheese and Sunkist!
I do so admire those grandparents who have figured out how to give their teenaged grandchildren space so they can "remember to breathe." If I revealed the contents of this article to my granddaughters, they would say I try too hard and worry too much. That’s probably true, but sadly, I can think of all too many failed opportunities to provide breathing room for them.
Actually, "giving yourself some space" is not bad advice for all of us, young and old. So, next time life seems to be closing in on you, or your loved ones, take a big, deep breath.Détends-toi et respire — remember to breathe.