She’s My Grandma, and You Can’t Have Her

In honor of my grandmother turning 90 next week, I decided to do an entire post just about her. There are a lot of reasons why my grandma is treasured by her family and friends, but I narrowed the evidence to a few simple points.

Before you get any ideas about kidnapping her and keeping her as your own, just know that she’s mine. I found her first, and claimed her in the name of France.

Ahem. Anyway…

 Here are 6 things to admire about my grandma:

 1. Her Personality

Like many women her age, my Grandma is a refined, respectable lady. She wears hair scarves on windy days, and pantyhose under her pants. Rarely have I ever heard her curse or say an unkind word.

But my Grandma ain’t no push over, either. She damn well does what she pleases, and doesn’t really care what others say about it. She’s a ninety-pound firecracker – and all of us are just a teensy bit afraid of her wrath.

2. Her Surprisingly Progressive Views

My grandmother was born in 1926. Considering the vastly different times she grew up in, it’s understandable that she holds a few old-school views.

But she’s always encouraged my educational and career goals, and has pulled me aside more than once to suggest that *if I keep my career when I get married*, I should make sure my spouse helps out with cooking and cleaning, because it wouldn’t be fair for me to do it all.

Not too shabby, Grandma.

(* to *) denotes the presence of old-schoolishness

3. Her Pride for Her Family

Grandma tells just about everyone she meets that she has a psychologist granddaughter. It’s very sweet.

Unfortunately, it’s also inaccurate. And no matter how many times I’ve explained that a master’s degree ≠ psychologist, she chooses to believe what she wants.

4. Her Loyalty to TV Personalities  

About two years ago, I had shingles. I happened to visit my grandparents’ house while I still had it, because I was in town for a couple days and hadn’t seen them in awhile. Grandma wasn’t thrilled about my visit, because she was concerned about catching the virus from me.

…That’d be an understandable fear, if it were scientifically possible. In truth, no one “catches” shingles from another person – if you’ve had chicken pox (which she’d had), the virus is already in your body.

According to Grandma, however, Barbara Walters had said on The View that she caught it from hugging someone, and apparently, an octogenarian journalist is more believable than actual doctors.

(Grandma still let me and my shingles visit, but she wouldn’t let me touch anything, and when she suggested that I take a seat on the couch, I noticed that there was a towel spread down for me.

Yes, a towel. As though I were a mangy dog.)

 5. Her Sense of Humor

Not too long ago, my motorcycle-riding father decided that it was his life’s dream to see my tiny grandmother sit on his bike. Willing to humor my father, who’s not even her child, Grandma perched on the motorcycle while the rest of the family died laughing. And took pictures.

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Actual photo of the motorcycle incident. Protected Grandma’s identity so no one can Grandma-nap her.

 

And the thing I (and my family) most admire about Grandma:

6. Her Black Hole of a Stomach

My itty bitty grandmother can put away a LOT of food. She regularly out-eats the larger men in my family, and could probably give your average sumo wrestler a run for his money. I’ve watched her neatly devour a plate of barbecue ribs and cornbread, and then ask for seconds. And thirds.

It’s like something out of a sci fi movie – no one’s quite sure where all the food goes once she swallows it.

But her real love, the key to her heart, is ice cream – which is how my friend and I came to nickname her “Ice Cream Grandma.” Simple, yet accurate.

 

To sum her up in a sentence, my grandmother is a polite, progressively traditional lady who could kick your ass in a hot-dog eating contest. (And then probably admonish me for the using the word “ass.”)

Anyone else have a firecracker, food-loving grandma? I’d love to hear more Grandma stories!

Scandinavians Get All the Good Stuff

I’ve been a little fixated on Scandinavia for a while now, and I’ve recently decided that I should just go ahead and move there.

Why? Because every time I read something about which country is happiest, or smartest, or most progressive, one (if not all) of the Scandinavian countries always tops the list. I’m constantly reading positive things about that area, and I’ve come to realize that it has no flaws.

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If the world is a high school, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway are the over-achieving students who have perfect GPAs, but are also really good at sports, really attractive, and really nice. You want to hate them, but you’re too busy staring at them in awe and trying to copy their outfits.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is the befuddling, not-as-attractive, tries-hard-but-never-quite-gets-there younger sibling of Scandinavia.

Put another way, if the world is a kennel of dogs, Scandinavia is the beautiful black lab who’ll one day become an intelligent service dog, while the U.S. is a Saint Bernard puppy –cute, but legs and head too big for the rest of its body, so it falls over a lot. And it drools.

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He just looks smart, doesn’t he?

Or, if the world is –

You know what, I think you get the picture.

As a side note, there seems to be a contentious battle going on about whether Finland and/or Iceland should be included as part of Scandinavia. My post focuses only on the main three (Sweden, Denmark, and Norway), but for the record, I have nothing against Icelanders (Icelandees?) or the Finnish. If the actual Scandinavian countries don’t let me in, I’d happily settle for either of those two.

Here are my 8 biggest reasons (in no particular order) for moving to Scandinavia:

8. The mere gorgeousness. ‘Nuff said.

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7. Impressive parental leave 
Sweden has the most generous paid maternity/paternity leave in the world, at 480 days. That’s more than a year of couch-and-television time, with some time left over to pick up and feed your baby now and then.

And it’s all PAID.

Under this system, it’d be wise to keep popping out child after child. It’d be a painful hobby, but a worthwhile one. The Duggars could make a killing there, if they could accept that whole socialism thing.

6. (Sort of) Free healthcare
Now I can finally afford to do stupid things without those silly fears of hurting myself and not being able to afford treatment.

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5. Happier people
Scandinavian countries consistently take the top spots on Forbes Magazine’s list of the happiest countries. According to Forbes, happiness = a healthy life expectancy, social support, and self-reports of well-being.

I picture these countries having a Disneyland-like atmosphere, where strangers regularly hold hands and skip through flower-lined streets. And the merry skippers aren’t even drunk.

4. Ikea
It’s at the famous furniture store that I plan to learn how to speak Swedish. I’m sure the words for “blanket” (polarvide) and “picture frame” (nyttja) will get me far.

3. Nice prisons
Just to clarify, I don’t plan on committing any prison-worthy crimes. But when considering a move to a new place, it’s best to check out their prisons beforehand, because you never know what obscure, culturally-unique crime you might commit.

For all I know, loudly proclaiming that I hate fish might be illegal in the fish-loving countries of Scandinavia. Fortunately, the prisons there seem more like college dormitories or summer camps – complete with woodworking classes.

2. Gender Equality
According to the World Economic Forum, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark all rank high on the list of the most gender-equal countries, meaning that the pay gap between men and women is almost nil in those places.

In yo face, misogynists!

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And last, but definitely not least…

1. All of the noms

 

Considering these reasons, you’d think I’d already be packing my bags and running over old ladies on my way to the airport. But there’s one major disadvantage about moving to Scandinavia, a disadvantage that threatens to overshadow the good points.

A disadvantage that brings me great sorrow:

1. I’d really miss my friends and family

1. There’s probably no chips and queso there

The U.S. may have its flaws. It may never be on those lists of happy people or gender-equal employers. But, damn it, it has bowls of melty cheese, and that just might be enough for me.

Maybe I Don’t Want Kids

I decided I wanted to do something a bit different for this post, so it’s both longer and seriouser than what I usually write. Fair warning.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m really not sure that I ever want to have kids.

I have liked children and enjoyed being around them pretty much my entire life. I was still in elementary school when I started baby-sitting younger children in my neighborhood, and by middle school, I was watching babies.

(Now that I’m an adult, I seriously question the sanity of any parent who would leave an infant with an untrained eleven-year-old, but that’s beside the point.)

For a few summers in a row, I even held “mini camps,” where all the children in my neighborhood could descend on my house for a few hours for snacks, art projects, and outdoor activities.

The camps were lots of fun – and also probably illegal, once you took the child-to-caregiver ratio into account.

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It’s a bit tricky to explain my line of thinking in regards to having kids. I think most people hear about others not wanting children, and assume it’s because they either dislike them, or because they have circumstances that get in the way of child-rearing, such as fancy, high-powered jobs.

Neither of those is true for me. I have worked at daycares, I have worked in foster care, and I currently work as a child and adolescent counselor. I’m also quite close with my niece and nephew. I very much do like children.

But I still don’t know that I want my kids of my own.

Through all the baby-sitting, child care, and counseling, I have experienced many amazing moments with kids. I have rocked sleepy babies, I have witnessed toddlers’ awe at discovering new things, I have giggled with preschoolers, and I have had fascinating conversations with older children and teens.

I have felt total elation at being a part of so many “firsts” – first steps, first days of school, first time swimming without floaties. I have played dress-up, acted as a tickle monster, made up songs, painted tiny fingernails, and cooked pancakes in the shape of hearts – all while genuinely enjoying myself.

However, I have also experienced what it’s like to hold a screaming baby in one arm, stir dinner with the other, and shout at the toddlers in the next room to share their toys. I have changed diapers, only for them to be dirtied again with seconds. I have been in public with bloodshot eyes, a pale face, uncombed hair, and spit-up on my shoulder.

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I have known the bewilderment and frustration of having a child throw a temper tantrum for reasons I don’t understand, and can therefore do nothing about. And I have, at times, dare I say, been annoyed by the antics of overexcited kids.

Gasp. Better notify the church elders.

If you’re a parent, or have provided childcare in some way, you’re probably thinking, “But everyone gets annoyed with kids sometimes! Everyone has days where they want to pull their hair out!”And you would be absolutely right.

But the difference is, on the days that I feel annoyed and stressed out, I am still being PAID for my services. Big difference.

Also, at the end of a long day, I can go home to a quiet apartment, take a hot shower without little hands banging on the door, and go to sleep in a bed not covered in cheerios. Parents don’t have those luxuries.

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Maybe this is selfish, but I find the idea of having to cater to a tiny person’s needs, 24/7, with NO time for myself, terrifying. Props to all of you who do it.

One thing I’ve learned through countless discussions with parents, whether in my role as a children’s counselor, or simply with friends and family, is this:

Parenting is hard, y’all.

It is a never-ending job in a company that you have no hope of moving “up” in. There are no lunch breaks, no sick days, and the boss is not at all understanding if you find the work overwhelming. There are many, many “thankless” jobs out there, where employees don’t receive much positive feedback from customers (or employers) – but parents have it way worse.

Children actually don’t say things like, “Thank you for prohibiting me from skateboarding in the street, Mommy. I understand now you were trying to protect me from being run over and killed, and I appreciate your concern for my safety, and your desire to see me live. Let’s have some tea.”

Paradoxically, even though everyone seems to understand and agree that parenting is difficult, everyone on the planet LOVES to criticize parents – especially other parents!

We shake our fingers at those who we perceive as being too harsh, and roll our eyes at those we see as being too lenient. We turn up our noses at the sight of toddlers tantruming at Walmart, disregarding the times that our own children (or baby-sitting charges) did the same thing.

We conveniently forget what it feels like to be that stressed, confused, embarrassed parent, in favor of judging them so we can feel better about our own skills.

 

Is it really so odd that I might want to spare myself from these types of challenges?

For me, the advantages of having children are about equal with the disadvantages. The one thing that may very well push me over the edge is fear – if I don’t have kids, I think there’s a very real possibility of reaching old age and regretting my decision. To be fair, it’s also possible that I’d reach old age and feel perfectly content with my choices, but the fear of maybe being regretful and sad just might be enough to convince me.

We’ll see what happens.

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