Parental Nurturing is Learned Behavior
Parental nurturing is something I learned from my grandparents. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of one day playing with grandchildren the way my grandparents used to entertain me. For some of you it was a teacher, a parent, an older sibling, neighbor or other relative. The bottom line is that we learn these tactics from someone along the way.
I have not given enough credit to my Grandmother Burton in this blog. She wasn’t larger than life to me like my memories of Grandpa. She did inspire hope in me very much like Grandpa did. She simply did it in quieter and more subtle ways. She was a nurturing Grandma and a really great cook!
She was always there for me. She was in the background, loving and nurturing me. She handled the mundane parts of child care and graciously handed off the moments of pure joy and exhilaration to Grandpa.
The two of them played cards with me, nurturing my ability to learn to both win and lose graciously. They put jigsaw puzzles together with me. (Not the simple ones for little kids. No, they chose the really difficult ones containing thousands of pieces to teach me hand and eye coordination. They took me to the circus and paid for endless rides on the ponies nurturing my love of animals.
My brother and I spent at least one full week each summer at their tiny apartment. That was the only time in my childhood when I ever felt completely safe. I loved going there.
Grandpa took me fishing. One of my favorite memories is standing in the kitchen with him, making dough balls to use as bait. I just wish I could remember the recipe to share with my own sons, but I can’t.
He was the first one to ever hint at the dangers that may exist for a young girl when he told me on my sixteenth birthday I should never accept a glass of coke from a boy. He explained his warning was because there were pills that could be put in pop that would make me do things I shouldn’t. (I didn’t have the courage to tell him the talk was about 10 years too late.) Think back to your childhood. Who made the biggest difference in your life? Which of their attributes have you tried to use with your own children.
Don’t take this lightly. This is a soul-searching question. Take out a sheet of paper and start writing down the names of all the people who had a positive influence on your life and list the reasons you feel as you do.
I knew all the other kids thought my family was rich. Perhaps we did have more things than others. I never really thought about wealth until I reached my teens. I knew some of the kids teased me without mercy because they were jealous of the fancy clothes Mother made me wear. She was an interior decorator and said my attire reflected on her and I needed to dress in a certain way to stand out. I felt out-of-place. I wanted to look like the other kids who teased me all the time.
It was easy for me to forgive them for the abuse. I knew they would never think of teasing me if they knew how really horrid my life was. I became an easy target for the bullies.
They used a variation of my last name (Grimes) to develop a song that was sung on the bus: “Great big gobs of greasy, grimy, gopher guts”. They pointed at me and laughed as they sang it. Like other kids who have experienced bullying, that song comes to my head frequently. I have found it is far easier to forgive than it is to forget.
I tried to be kind to everyone. When the girls started teasing one of the other girls for wearing her bra over top her T-shirt, I took her to my house across from the school and gently explained the bra was supposed to go underneath. When I noticed one of the kids was wearing clothes that were a bit worn-out, I took them to my home, telling them I had outgrown something and gave them new clothes.
I tried to nurture those who were having a rough time like I was.
Which kids in grade school, middle school, and high school had the greatest impact on your personality as it matured? Did you find yourself in the role of supporter, helper, bully? How did your own attitude toward others affect your relationship with your peers?
I was ecstatic when I found out my brother and his wife were going to have a baby. I drove over 2 1/2 hours from my apartment to their home in Des Moines after my precious nephew was born.
I scrimped all year long to make sure I had enough money to buy him presents for special occasions and Savings Bonds for college for Christmas.
He was one of the brightest and dearest children I had ever known.
I couldn’t wait to have my own kids.
I spent as many hours with this wonderful child as humanly possible. There were times I would drive to Des Moines after work and back to my apartment in Iowa City after his bedtime because I so ached to spend time with him. There was no doubt who would be ring bearer when I got married.
Some of us don’t grow up close to family. Many spend most of their awake time in the homes of neighbors who are good parents and have kids who are fun to be with. Have you been affected by distance from relatives? Were you able to interact with kids who were part of the same family as you? Why would this have been important to you both as a child and as an adult?
I was twenty-one when I was married the first time. For the first three years we were married I dreamed of having a child as soon as possible. My health suddenly started to play some miserable tricks on me.
Within a month after the wedding I started having sharp pains in my right side. They would bring me to my knees and take my breath away. Suddenly, I developed a bulge in the lower right side of my stomach. I raced to the doctor. I was afraid I might be pregnant, but I was still having my monthly cycles. Something had to be terribly wrong.
They treated me and told me I had a cycst. It kept growing. When I went downtown for groceries the older women in town would smile sweetly and congratulate me on my recent marriage while they stared at my protruding belly.
They all thought I’d had to get married. I couldn’t find the courage to share the truth. I simply walked away, feeling even more worthless than I had previously.
The cyst was reduced by several months of hormone treatment. We were still not using any form of protection, but I couldn’t get pregnant.
Grandpa Made a Prediction
Three years went by and I still wasn’t pregnant. The doctors had determined I had a condition called Mittelschmerz two years earlier. They put me on birth control pills, but that made no difference in the pain cycle. I went off them after developing a blood clot in my left shoulder.
My husband was becoming very frustrated with my inability to provide him with a child and with what he referred to as my constant whining about the pain. I learned not to talk about it and to suffer in silence.
My stomach started to swell again, like it had after we had gotten married. This time it looked like I was about eight months pregnant and people started to congratulate me.
Again, I didn’t have the courage to tell them the truth. I finally was sent to a specialist in Iowa City who told me I had another large cyst. It was his decision to give me a hysterectomy because of the damage I suffered as a child and these new issues. He said there was no choice. I would never have children.
Surgery was scheduled. We went to Ottumwa to visit my grandparents that weekend. Grandpa’s heart was failing and the grey color of his face was a warning that his time was nearly up.
Grandpa called me over to his chair. He held my hand and spoke, “You are going to have a baby, and it’s going to be a boy. I was thinking you could call him Thomas after me and Roger after your husband and then he would have my initials.” He used every opportunity open to him to provide the nurturing love and attention I so desperately needed at every stage of my life.
Everyone in town called Grandpa TR Burton. I kept the smile on my face as I assured him he must be right and that I would certainly name the child after him. I told myself that I could always adopt a child and give him my grandfather’s name. I didn’t mention the surgery that was to take place in six weeks. (That was one of three predictions he made that came true on the last week of his life.)
We buried my grandfather one week after his prediction. (Blogger’s sometimes need to take a break when the tears prevent them from seeing what they’re typing!)
(Large Break Here)
I have always believed in miracles, but what happened next will never allow me to doubt again.
I called the specialist one week before the surgery and told him I was several weeks late and that I thought I was pregnant. He immediately prescribed a pill that would start my period.
I choked as I swallowed the first pill. It went against everything I believed in. I wanted my grandfather’s miracle to happen. I took the first pill, and then the next and the next. Four days later I called the specialist and told him nothing had happened. He wanted to see me as soon as possible.
I don’t remember all the medical mumbo-jumbo. What I do know is that this specialist was part of a teaching hospital. I remember pulling the sheet over my face as he marched countless medical students past my legs in the stirrups so they could see a “medical miracle”.
It wasn’t a perfect pregnancy. I hemorraghed a few weeks later. The same specialist told me I had lost so much blood that the child would surely be born brain dead if at all. He urged me to sign the baby over as a ward of the court so I wouldn’t get too attached to him after he was born.
The little guy to the left was neither damaged nor brain dead. I thank God I never faltered in my faith during the rest of that pregnancy.
I went on to have another delightful little boy who came along two months before he should have. The new specialist quietly explained after the second birth that the damage from the abuse was so extensive that I might die if I tried to have another child.
He also recommended an immediate hysterectomy but I waited another full year before I had the surgery. I had always wanted a large family. I knew miracles happen, but as I looked into the faces of the two precious children I now had, I couldn’t imagine risking everything to try to have another child. It was a good decision.
I rejoiced in every breath they took. I marveled at their perfection. I still marvel that these two remarkable men were once the children I adored more than life itself, and still do.
I now have two beautiful grandchildren. They are a precious gift from my oldest son and his wife. They are not alone. I have other children whom I love every bit as much as if they were part of the family. I have found one of my greatest gifts came from my grandparents: The Gift to Nurture. These are all grandchildren of the heart. There are no blood ties and yet I love them with the same passion I loved my own children.
I will continue to try to live up to the example Grandpa Burton set for me. I will trust and believe in a power that is beyond my comprehension. I will always believe in miracles. I will provide what each child needs the moment I see a need. I will give them my unconditional love and treat them with compassion.
We are the smartest creature on the planet, but we are still creatures. History has proven that what is not nurtured will not grow. I am a cultivator of everything a child is and can be. That is the simple legacy I hope to leave behind. Click Here for more information and training courses on “Nurturing Parenting”