By Jordan Elizabeth
People love to say “I don’t have any regrets!”…which I think is a total cop-out. I regret a lot of things: crying the entire week I was at sleep-away camp and refusing to snorkel, that bagel I ate this morning that’s now giving me heartburn, and the biggest one, the fact that I didn’t try to have a real relationship with my grandmothers.
Growing up, I lived far away from both sets of grandparents and really only saw them once or twice a year. (Keep in mind, this was in archaic times when we couldn’t email or text - landline phone calls only! And don’t talk too long, it’s long distance!) And when I did see them, it felt like it was a forced vacation and just passed the time I just played with my parents old toys they had laying around (although that IS how I learned to play the game “Head of the Class,” so that wasn’t a total loss). Even when I was in high school and could hold adult conversations, I never tried to with them. Both of my grandmothers passed away before I was 25. But it wasn’t until a couple years ago, when my sister had her daughter and I saw my mother with her, that I felt a pang of regret.
I realized then that I didn’t really know who my grandmothers were, beyond my parents’ mothers. I never really sat and talked to them about their lives, or listened to their stories. Seeing my mother interact with my niece — and my niece screaming “T-Ma!” and running into her arms — made me realize I really missed out on a great relationship. I don’t really know if I share any of the same traits as them, I don’t know how they fell in love, I don’t know what they would have said if I asked them “should I move to New York?” or “how do you bake bread?” (Although I’m fairly certain that my Italian grandmother would know and my Hungarian one would have said “go to the store and buy it.”)
I suppose that’s part of growing up: realizing that the women related to you aren’t just your “aunt” or “grandmother.” They are people with stories and advice and experiences that you might want to hear about. Like, how they came from Italy on a boat, or how they lived in Turkey for a year and left a deadbeat husband behind (this is juicy stuff!). And yes, I wish I realized this a long time ago, when I had the chance to listen. I know I’m not the only one with this regret and I won’t be the last. Youth truly is wasted on the young (I just turned 30, I can say things like that now, yes?!) But I think it goes both ways - I wish that they shared with me some life experiences, whether I asked about them or not (...and most kids won’t. Youth is very self-centered).
My advice to grandmothers today is: reach out. I’m sure if you tell your grandkids about the time you and your high school sweetheart stole your dad’s Firebird and did donuts on the school lawn, they will call you more than once a week on Sunday afternoons (even if you didn’t commit a misdemeanor. Just tell them about you and show them that you were young and silly once, too!) Ply them with sugary lemonade their mother won’t let them drink at home and ask them about their life, not just asking surface questions about what subject they like in school. Show them your old favorite shows then ask them what the point of reality shows like “Dance Moms” really is.
Although I can’t change my past, I can learn from it and talk to my aunt and mother the way I wish I did to my grandmothers. And when I have kids of my own, I will gently force them to talk to my mother and ship them off for a week to spend with her alone to teach them how to play Rummy and make a real connection! My mistake was thinking that I was so different than my grandmothers that I couldn’t connect to them. In truth, it was the difference in age and life lessons that I could have benefitted from the most. For all I know, if I told my grandmother I was afraid of sleep-away camp, she may have told me that was the best place to have a first kiss. Instead, I had to wait until 8th grade for that, and boy, was that awkward.
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JORDAN ELIZABETH - Life
Jordan Elizabeth is a comedian, TV Writer/Producer, collector of hobbies, and master of putting off adulthood. She can be heard on the Podcast "3 Dudes and a Broad" and performs stand-up comedy with "Girls Gone Funny." She lives in Manhattan with her fiance and two dogs. Read more about her life at Jordie Elizabeth and follow her on Twitter at @JordiElizabeth.