I’m very fortunate to have extensive experience facilitating parenting education groups as well as many years working in a social service agency. Both of these situations have afforded me wonderful resources in terms of access to people who work with children and have a wealth of knowledge around child development issues. It’s a resource I’ve tapped multiple times over the years.
With all this knowledge and resources at my fingertips, one would think I’d have a handle on just about any situation that arises when one is parenting a child.
Wrong. I don’t.
Case in point. The GrandPrince (grandson approaching eight years old in a few weeks) recently was behaving in a manner that was, well, not himself. He was flippant, a bit combative, sulky and challenged almost every statement or decision I made insisting on knowing the ‘why’ of each one and loudly voicing his reasons as to why it should or should not happen.
Now I have a pretty democratic parenting style. I know not to get pulled into power struggles, the importance of giving choices, when to set boundaries and limits and respecting a child’s feelings. But this kid was pushing my buttons big time!
I talked to the Spouse about the GP’s behavior and he was as stumped as I was. It was simply out of character for him. The light bulb went off for both of us at the same time.
He must have some dormant feelings he’s not dealing with about his adoption/living situation/mother/sister/not having a traditional family, etc, etc. You name it, we came up with it. We immediately put our head’s together to determine a strategy that would help to narrow down what could be bothering our grandson and how best to support him and encourage him to share his feelings with us.
Given my access to the above mentioned resources, I spoke to a dear friend who happens to be a fabulous social worker with a number of years in the field working with children and families. I listed all the behaviors and the possibilities for this acting out that had changed our usual compliant, good natured grandson into an irritating, restless, sullen stranger. She listened quite attentively, nodding appropriately and then sat back a minute before replying.
“I can see how upsetting this is for you, and how perplexing too. Have you thought that perhaps he’s just being an eight year old?”
I blinked. And blinked again. I was complicating things by overlooking the simplicity of them. I dug out some child development books and lo and behold I could have inserted his name right under “Your Eight Year Old’s Social/Emotional Development”.
My point in all this is, as grandparents raising our grandchildren we are at times hell bent, I believe, to make life as ‘normal’ as possible for them to make up for what they don’t have; that traditional Mom and Dad who are age appropriate and are just like the parents of all their friends.
Truth is, we’re not a traditional family, but we *are* a family. A loving, caring, nurturing, supportive family. And yes, our circumstances are different from the traditional families on the block and with that comes, at times, issues that must be addressed, questions answered, feelings expressed and dealt with. But most of the time, we’re just like everyone else who’s raising a child and trying to do the best they can to help that child grow to be a happy, confident, loving, caring human being.
It’s not always about the differences, sometimes it’s just about being eight. Happy Birthday, kiddo.