Last week I took care of my grandchildren while their parents went to Hawaii for a long-overdue respite. Ages four and one, they are adorable girls—smart, funny, gorgeous. They are also little people with expectations, desires, routines, and the usual quirks. It was an entire course in human relationships crammed into a few short days.
Though I was dealing with little people, the lessons learned apply equally to all the relationships in our lives. Children allow for good practice because with toddlers, you get massive, immediate feedback. Here are my top 7 take-aways:
Be willing to lay down your agenda.
I’m single. I live alone. I work from home and generally interact with others on a limited basis. This can make me a little rigid (ya think?). Inflexibility doesn’t work when you bump into real folks in your space. I made up my mind before the week began to surrender my routine. Good decision! If I had expected everything to run as peacefully as it does when I am on my own, it would have added a lot of frustration. Better to go with the flow when others are involved.
Stick with your non-negotiables.
That said, it is also vital to know what things must happen for you to be happy and to accomplish your goals and mission in life. For me quiet time with Jesus, a walk, and some attention to my business are all on the non-negotiable list. By knowing my must-haves, I was able to look at the reality of the situation and find ways to include them in the day’s events.
Try to see things from the other person’s perspective.
I ran into a speed bump when I failed to do this. As a treat for the four-year-old, my daughter had arranged for her to spend the day at a camp she may attend this summer. The place has animals, lots of kids, and outdoor activities. The children can be picked up between 4 and 5:30 pm. From my point of view, she would be tired and ready to go by 4. Not so! I arrived unannounced while she was having the time of her life. My assumptions apply to this introverted gramma but were totally off the mark for our little social butterfly! Remembering that it’s not all about me could have saved a lot of tears—hers and mine!
Set guidelines and expectations.
All relationships need structure. We rarely create this mindfully. We learn from each other what to expect over time through trial and error but making the effort to lay it out upfront can save a lot of frustration and misunderstanding. In my situation, knowing the kids schedules and routines helped me get more cooperation and allowed me to plan for my own needs. Whether or not we do this in advance, it’s important to remember that if we do something once, it becomes an expectation that we will always do it. So, if chocolate ice cream is not an acceptable dinner every night, you should probably just say no to the first request!
Sometimes you need to stand your ground, sometimes you need to bend.
Okay, chocolate ice cream for dinner—but JUST THIS ONCE!
Separation makes togetherness more fun.
I’m not the only grandparent. While I was the primary caretake, I arranged for the others to come for a few hours so that I could take some breaks. Enmeshment is never a good idea. The best relationships need to allow each member to have time away for other experiences and to keep things fresh. This gives each person something new to share. A break also allows any little irritations and disagreements to mellow.
Always kiss and makeup
Things didn’t always go smoothly. That’s not only true when dealing with toddlers. All our relationships run into snags. We say things we don’t mean. We step on toes and disregard boundaries. Hugs, kisses and apologies go a long way towards mending little hurts. Failure to take care of the small tears in the relationship can lead to irreparable splits. Forgive and forget.
Bonus Tip: Relationships with people require relationship with Jesus.
Relationships can be hard. They require patience, sacrifice and energy. I run out of those things. If I don’t find a fresh supply, it can get ugly! The book, God Calling 2 by AJ Russell is reported to be prophetic words given to two women known as “the Listeners” directly from God. There is a statement in the book, that sums me up–maybe you, too: “There is nothing in you that creates Love, so how can you give it out unless you are receiving it?”
Fortunately, Jesus willingly gives me all the love I need. He never runs out. Tapping into his supply is as easy as asking Him for it. I am reminded of the 23rd Psalm:
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul…
He definitely does!
So back to my routine. It feels a little lonelier, a little more boring. Where can we send the parents so I can get a little more gramma time?