I was home from college for the weekend and all I wanted to do was sleep.
The scratchy wool rug on my sister’s hardwood floor was not a deterrent. I tucked my arms underneath my chest, cradled the side of my face within the palms of my hand, and willingly surrendered myself to slumber. I was making the full commitment, allowing myself to drift effortlessly within that magical realm where consciousness is suspended. Physical awareness was yielding itself to the soothing waves of relief that were beckoning,
ever so gently,
toward the glorious sea of tranquility…
…And then there is something, somewhere, within this ethereal state of bliss that feels mildly incompatible. It begins as a slightly foreign sensation, fluttering somewhere near the fringe of what I vaguely recall to be my right ear. This curious signal audibly rises, producing a rather persistent disturbance, until I manage to register the intrusion of another human being. A miniature voice releases a soft puff of graham cracker breath near my cheek, and I am finally able to discern the lyrics of the chorus that was now ringing through my head.
“Aunt Jilly,… Aunt Jilly,… Aunt Jiiilleeee…”
I have no recourse but to re-enter the world of the living. My retreat into dreamland has been successfully thwarted by a pack of toddlers.
Sesame Street had just ended. Currently, this was the one and only television show that my sister allowed her preschool-aged children to watch. Twelve-hour broadcasts of Nickelodeon Junior and recorded episodes of Blue’s Clues were nonexistent. Satellite television was science fiction. None of us knew what a DVD was.
Had today’s technology been available, I suspect that my sister’s list of approved programming may have been more lenient. As it was, Gen had a good bead on what, when, and how much media exposure to prescribe for her kids. “The Electric Company” had not yet made the cut. Leaving the television on for another twenty minutes or so (to let Aunt Jill catch some shut-eye) was not an option.
These were three smart, beautiful, well-behaved kids who promptly turned the television off during the final credits of Sesame Street…Because that’s what their mom had instructed them to do.
Splendid human specimens. But I prefer to sleep, thank you very much.
Thirty years later with three grown children of my own, I obviously changed my mind. Who needs sleep, anyway?
Parenting may be mostly instinctual, but I credit my sister Gen with the basic framework that I relied on to foster those instincts effectively. Had it not been for the time I spent with Gen, (not sleeping), during her early years of motherhood, I may have fumbled around for guidance and resources more than I ever felt like I had to with the Bean sprouts.
The great thing about being a grown-up is that you get to choose what feels right and healthy in the nurturing of new arrivals. It always felt right for me to follow Gen’s lead. Patience, kindness, an abundance of humor, age-appropriate mindfulness, and an unwavering focus on the individual nature of each and every little person who chooses us for a parent…these are the basic ingredients of Gen’s “home” recipe that I chose.
Now when my twenty-year old son tells me that he loves me, out loud, or my twenty-four year old daughter wants me to join her for a drink at the local pub, or my seventeen-year old baby brushes the side of my hand to hold it while we’re waiting in line at the store, I feel content with the decision to waive my right to sleep when they were much younger.
Thanks, Gen. I may have tweaked the recipe when needed and incorporated a few substitutions, but I stuck with the basic ingredients that you gave me. Your concoction has allowed me to foster a few of the best damn people on the planet…right there next to yours.
Congratulations, Grandma Genevra. The fool-proof recipe continues:)