Recently, I went by my mom’s apartment to pick up her wheelchair. She was in a rehab facility, recovering from a bad fall, and was going home that day. As I worked to get it into the back of my car, I noticed the booster seat my granddaughter Millie uses when she rides with me.
I jokingly said to myself, Hello, my name is Becky Davis and I am a member of the sandwich generation!
Since my daddy died in January of last year, I’ve spent a lot more time with Mom. Dad being gone has definitely been an adjustment for both of us, but it is a privilege to help care for someone who is responsible for who I am today. Trying to provide extra help for her while spending time with my kids and grandkids – and working two jobs – has been a challenge. But my family is a priority for me so it’s worth it.
Mothers and their children have special, and sometimes challenging, relationships. Over the years I’ve learned a few things that can help navigate a path to success. I’d never say my relationships with Mom and my kids are perfect, but we have committed to grow together and enjoy that journey.
My children are very different from each other. I remember walking into my girls’ shared bedroom one time – they were teenagers – looking from one twin bed to another and then to the floor. Jennifer was asleep on her back, her hair laid out evenly on her pillow, her bedding folded neatly under her chin. Sarah was sleeping on her side, drooling on her misshapen pillow, with her bedding screwed into a knot at the foot of her bed and her pajamas thrown on the floor (evidently the room wasn’t cool enough for her). Josh was curled up on the floor in his sleeping bag. He’d pulled it in during the night so he could be with his sisters. Shaking my head I lovingly thought, These are my kids, they love each other to pieces, and could not be more different. How on earth did they each come from the same parents?
I could go on and on about the differences between Mom, me, my kids, and even my grandchildren but I know that mothers everywhere know very well what I’m talking about.
Here’s a typical scenario of the people in our family. We find some random LEGOs on the floor. Here is how each of us would respond:
Mom: Scoot her walker over to the LEGOs, carefully and slowly bend all the way down to the floor to pick them up, place them on her walker tray, scoot over to the closet where she keeps the LEGOs (she bought them from me at a garage sale 20-plus years ago) and, using the same slow, careful stooping method, put them away.
Me: Pick up the LEGOs and put them in the Grandkid LEGO Box in the Grandkid Closet.
Jennifer: Pick up the LEGOs and put each one in the individual container where its respective colored LEGOs belong. One bin for red, one for black and gray, one for white, one for blue, you get the idea.
Sarah: Scoop them up with the little broom and dustpan (the little sweep) and throw them away. Less is more.
Josh: Walk on by – didn’t even notice.
Can you relate?
If you have kids and/or parents, here are some helpful hints to make your relationships healthy, fun and fulfilling:
Look for and appreciate your differences. When we need to plan a family event, we always look to Jennifer to help with the plan, Sarah is great with the menu and décor, Josh comes up with all things fun and creative. Mom thinks of the details we forget, Danny (my husband and their dad) can make anything, and I love games and working with a team. Together, we can pull it off.
Purpose to work through difficult seasons. Give each other space, but don't neglect to follow through. There is nothing more important than your relationships.
Be humble. Whether you're the child or the parent, there is always something you can learn from each other. Believe it or not, we never get too old to grow. Why waste the opportunity?
Always listen and be empathetic. Give encouragement liberally and advice only when asked. (I’ve been known to pleadingly say, “I have some really good advice if you're interested.” only to hear back, “No thanks, Mom, I’ve got this.”)
Focus on the strengths and talents of your children and your parents. Encourage and praise them. When appropriate, help them develop simple strategies for shoring up the weaker areas. For example, creative minds sometimes need a very simple way to stay organized and focused.
As your children get older you’ll miss them. Instead of wishing they’d call or come by, call them and invite them for dinner. Be proactive instead of reactive. It works. And it’s super fun!
Spending so much extra time with Mom this past year has highlighted her strengths for me. I’ve learned to appreciate them so much more. She is responsible, tenacious and kind. She does the right thing. Always.
I wonder what the world would be like if families truly celebrated, instead of being frustrated by, the differences in each member. Even small children have so much to offer. Young men and women are creative thinkers and can stretch our minds. Older adults are an amazing wealth of wisdom.
I love being sandwiched between the generations of my family. Through every high and every low there have been things to learn and relationships to strengthen.
Maybe I’m the peanut butter that holds this sandwich together. Maybe you can be, too!
by Becky Davis
An Amarillo native, Becky and her husband, Danny, have raised two daughters and a son – and added two sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and seven grandchildren to their family. Becky teaches sewing lessons to kids and adults, and also works as a part-time chaplain with Interim Hospice.