Sunday, April 1, 2012

....By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

A few weeks ago my granddaughter had been over for a visit. We were in my bedroom and she was seated atop my bed, sketching and writing on a tablet. I had been putting some things into my dresser drawers and we were talking. Out of the blue she rips a piece of paper from her tablet and hands it to me. She said, “Nonni, I wrote your name!”

She had indeed. She had written what was her phonetic interpretation of my name. She’s only ever called me “Nonni” and I can’t say she would have heard my name spoken very often elsewhere. Of course she would know what it is but in the context of our conversations and those within the family, I’m usually known either as “Mom” or “Nonni”. Looking at this piece of paper with my misspelled name written in the hand of a precious seven year old, I thought about how I am perceived by my children. I thought about how I want to be perceived by my granddaughter.

As parents, we spend a lot of time thinking about the example we set for our children. Actions speak more loudly than words so we are careful about what our actions say to them, or rather we should be. In my role as parent I have always tried to strike a balance between setting the bar for expectations and allowing room for human nature to be what it is. I wanted to be an example of what to aspire but not set an unattainable goal.

What I wanted them to see was a strong, quietly confident and independant woman. Trustworthy, accomplished and decisive. Content in myself as a person. Committed to the family, having complete faith in them as individuals and possessing unwavering and limitless love for them.

That is not to say I want them to see perfection. I’m far from perfect and they know it. I just never want my children to see my weaknesses, Weakness that is not to be confused with my vulnerability or the soft places that lie within me. While such things are not as prominently displayed as my strengths, they are nevertheless equally important for them to be able to see. And they do.

What I don’t want for them to see is failure, my failures. Shortcomings I have not conquered. Shortcomings that remain within my life’s struggle. As they grow older they will inevitably figure them out for themselves but hopefully having also drawn whatever conclusion they may based upon the entire picture and not my singular place in it. I want the roots I have given them to be strong and true and suitable to support them as they grow into the adults they have and will become.

So it is with a measure of amusement that I ponder how it is my granddaughter will perceive me (as well as how any other of the children of my children to come will). It is completely within my control as to what I let her see and how much of me she will know. Grandparents are in a unique position and one that is to be arrived at with great care. We want to advise and not interfere. we want to support and not supplant. We want to love unconditionally but with the full understanding that we will always be a close third at best in the order of things. As it should be.

I think what I want is for her to simply see what my children see, the strength and the commitment. A standard for her to understand is worthy of upholding. But I also want her to see something else, something that is part role model and part safe haven. A link in the chain that is our family and a tie that binds her to unconditional love with a good dose of expectation. A tie that binds her to my heart as she goes forward in finding her way. Always knowing that when she faces what she may struggle to conquer, she need only look back from where she came to find her way. Look back to me.

And however she may spell my name is not important as long as she knows that when she calls it, I will be here. Always.


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