An Open Letter To The Mothers Of My Grandchildren
It’s not often that you get a letter from the distant past, but in a way, that is the definition of karma, which I often told you about when you were growing up.
This is not an “I told you so” letter, but rather an appeal for you to use empathy in your parenting of my grandchildren. You see, I believe that the best parenting strategies are derived from knowing what your children are thinking. It is empathy and discipline mixed together: Empapline. It sounds like an antibiotic, which fits.
When you see your children do the same things that drove me crazy when you were the perpetrators, I am asking you to remember what you were probably thinking at the time you did them.
Do not be too harsh when my grandchildren have bedrooms that look like the closet exploded, sending shards of clothing and other detritus into the farthest corners and making you thankful that no one was in the room when it happened. Try to recall, instead, what you were thinking when I pointlessly repeated to you my motto: “Always leave a room better than you found it.”
You were sometimes away with your father for a week or two in the summer, and when you returned I couldn’t help but tell you how “I’m here alone and the house gets cleaner and cleaner, but you girls come back, and it gets dirtier and dirtier.” I must have sounded like quite the frustrated nag. When your own little sweethearts nod their heads when you speak and immediately do the opposite, know that you are one, in a long line of women, feeling like the top of their heads will pop off from the pressure building underneath them.
Try to understand the plight of my dearest grandchildren when they don’t get all excited upon hearing you propose a dozen fun things to do. They may look bored, and say “Nahhh,” but surely, you will know why.
Exercise tolerance, please, when my little grand-darlings somehow create nerve-mincing, patience-chopping, shrieking fights out of nothing but a wrong look from each other. Undoubtedly, you know why this is happening and will be able to stop it, before it turns you into a she-devil.
When another “I didn’t do it!” or “It wasn’t me!” pushes you toward a nervous breakdown, show some restraint. After all, these are words that all mothers hear often, including myself, and, somehow, also those mothers who have only one child.
Surely, my grandbabies will never wish that they had someone else’s mother or imply that the grass is greener anywhere else, causing you to feel unappreciated. And when the teen years come and the lies of omission or little half-truths begin, try not to feel the betrayal too deeply; my grandchildren just don’t want you to worry, or “freak out!”
Keep your cool, please, when these little twigs on my family tree complain that there is nothing to eat for breakfast when there are eggs, bread, bagels, yogurt, berries, oatmeal and cereal in the kitchen. You must learn to understand their language. What they mean is that there is nothing delicious and bad for their health, already prepared and placed in front of them. Do you see how this works?
Do not despair, ladies, when your progeny ask you the same question 15 times in a three-hour span of time. The statute of limitations on a “no” answer is only 12 minutes long. Until the age of 16, this is one of the many unspoken rules of childhood.
Keep calm and soldier on, ladies, for there is hope. You have become strong, intelligent, successful women and mothers, and I am extremely proud of you. Despite the excruciatingly difficult times, the sun will shine through, and your children, my grandchildren, will turn out well. After all, you turned out wonderfully.
Karma will visit for a while, then pack her bags and head off for a well-deserved rest. When she returns for her next visit, it is with renewed strength and a vigor that is unprecedented.
Just remember: Empapline. And when you see me with a serene smile on my face, know that I am feeling love and admiration for you and for my grandchildren; and also laughing my ass off, on the inside.
This article was originally published on