My Grandma's Golden Rule

by Julie Cole

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My ninety-two-year-old grandmother has given birth to a lot of babies. She had babies in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. She was collecting the baby bonus and old-age pension at the same time. Grandma is as wise as she is old so when she talks, this humble creator of five babies drops everything and listens.

Grandma firmly believes that women should not talk about their kids when they get together. At first I found this to be a very strange perspective. I have five small kids and can turn every conversation into a discussion around their accomplishments, challenges, teachers, activities, poops, pukes, and sleeping patterns. What more is there going on in my life? If not for kiddie-gab, is there much else I can say?

That's precisely her point. I once returned from a weekend away with my longtime girlfriends. You know the kind of gals I’m talking about - the ones who have been around since the beginning of time.

They were there holding your hair back while you puked up the peach schnapps you guzzled in the school parking lot before the dance. They remember when you got your driver’s license, cried with you that first time your heart was broken and would share your single dorm room bed during a weekend visit. These are the gals who were your bridesmaids and actually knew what you were like before you were someone’s mama.

The weekend was geared to be a fantastic catch-up with the old gang and Grandma gave me strict instructions to report back to her with all the gossip and antics the weekend held. However, come Monday morning, the two of us sat with our cups of tea and I delivered a shockingly boring report. I walked away from that weekend knowing that little Johnny was an exceptional reader and little Janey is the best player on her soccer team, but didn’t know much else.

Lamenting this, Grandma perked up and told me it was time to implement “The Rule.” As a young mother, Grandma occasionally gathered with a group of women. It was one of the very rare occasions they did not have their children with them. She set a rule for the group. No one was permitted to talk about her children. “The Rule” was complied with and these women enjoyed many years of social gatherings, discussing every topic imaginable - except their kids.

The next year came quickly and our annual weekend together was around the corner. The e-mails started flying - deciding who was driving, who was cooking, who was bringing the wine! Now was the time to suggest “The Rule,” but I was concerned with how it would be received. I was telling people I didn’t want to hear about their kids - the bonus was they didn’t have to hear about mine!

The two childless friends immediately responded to me. I had been elevated to hero status in their eyes. The other e-mails started trickling in. Everyone agreed that it was time for “The Rule” to be passed onto our generation.

No one will dispute that your children are all consuming and have a way of taking over your entire existence. Even my grandmother would readily agree. I once heard someone say having a child is like watching your heart walk around outside of your body. True enough, but every once in a while you need to step back and find that little piece of yourself that sometimes gets lost in the school meetings, hockey practices, and music lesson drop-offs.

For this busy mama, "The Rule" is only an official decree for one weekend a year, but I try not to let the lesson stray too far from my mind.

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