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Priscilla Dann-Courtney
Priscilla Dann-Courtney
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There are two kinds of grandparenting.

One is about experiencing the more personal that I hear about from friends, family and clients who discuss becoming grandparents, impending grandparenthood, or accepting not being a grandparent at all.

Priscilla Dann-Courtney

The other is the universal role we have of how to “grandly” parent future generations.

In addressing the first, I am looking through a window as I did at families before we had children since I am not a grandparent. I am learning that given inevitable differences in child-rearing; the choices we made as young parents may be in contrast to those of parents today. And thus there is the inevitable challenge of accepting those differences.

Some of the variability has to do with new and more sophisticated technology when it comes to baby gear.

If parents can afford these accessories, there is the Snoo, which is a baby bed that actually rocks an awakened baby back to sleep in the night. Strollers can be this side of small automobiles.

Video baby monitors keep parents informed of every movement, breath and cry from a distance. They even have had to develop safer frequency bands so no stranger can hack into the monitor. Unfortunately, hacking occurs everywhere.

But even for parents without new baby hardware, their parenting choices are very individual and may be different from their own parents’. It is wise to curb both judgment and one’s opinion.

Good parenting is often what we don’t say. Google has replaced experts from long ago such as Spock and Winnecott as well as our advice. What hasn’t changed is the love that swaddles a new arrival.

But this lighter commentary on one’s personal experience relative to being a grandparent raises more serious issues of both the personal and collective challenge as we attempt to parent “grandly” the coming generations.

Much has been written about intergenerational learning as we teach coming generations as they teach us. There is such power for change in this two-way dialogue. However, we bear the responsibility of facing what we pass on to coming generations, which is only one-way.

And it is not only wisdom but also our trials and tribulations personally and universally. These are our personal demons not yet healed — our addictions, our conflicts and our trauma. And then globally, issues of racial injustice, prejudice, climate change, political and religious conflict, war and disease, to name just a few.

Richard Schwartz, both a writer and psychologist, talks about this in terms of “generational legacy burdens.” These are what we as parents, grandparents or otherwise, unwittingly “gift” to those younger. These are not precious heirlooms, but instead painful and difficult challenges for future generations.

Personal burdens within families such as alcoholism and trauma can be carried in the body, heart and soul from our ancestors. Studies show that even gene changes occur that are passed on between generations. The horror in Afghanistan is an example of a religious and international legacy burden. Those who have died, some so young they were not even born at the time of early terrorist attacks, are the victims of these unhealed conflicts. Holocaust survivors carry the wounds of genocide. Minorities carry the burdens of ancestral racism.

It is these legacy burdens that we must attend to which the Snoo cannot comfort. Instead it is placing priority on our healing individually and universally.

We often will do things in the name of our children that we resist doing for ourselves. To quote Thích Nhất Hạnh, “No mud, no lotus.” It is our individual responsibility to step into that mud, the exiled parts of ourselves that call out for attention, compassion and healing. From that space we are better able to parent grandly with a focus on both healing global, political and religious differences and the tears of Mother Earth demanding our attention.

Our children need those acts of grandeur. I sometimes think about the worn baking recipes I hope to pass on to my own children and perhaps grandchildren. Along with the stains of vanilla and brown sugar, I have crafted small notes of advice. Inevitably it is both the stains and sweetness that are passed on to generations along with some sage words.

At least our willingness and intentions to heal our personal and global dark night gives us hope. Perhaps that is a version of the Snoo — love and comfort of ourselves helps to rock, soothe and heal the children of new generations and the world they live in.

Priscilla Dann-Courtney can be reached through her website: priscilladanncourtney.com.