Sharing Stories of Grit
Did you know there's a new course being offered in some of our schools? Indeed there is, and it's called "Grit." It seems one very good predictor of success is how an individual overcomes hardships. But modern day kids don't seem to really have hardships--at least not middle and upper class children, and not in the traditional sense.* I'm not sure how I feel about this idea of teaching it in school, but I do think it behooves us as parents and grandparents to tell the stories of our parents and grandparents. They really knew about GRIT.
My husband is from the South Plains of Texas. Most early settlers there were cotton farmers and his family was no exception. They came to the south plains in the early part of the last century. It seems his father and grandparents didn't throw anything away. My husband has been going through boxes of papers and photos and is currently trying to organize it and tell the story of his ancestors. I'll share a letter from his great-grandmother to her children. It really captures the grit of which I speak:
I realize you can't read that photo copy, so I'll type it here in part. It truly captures the hardships of her life:
"Comanche tx R3
Dear children, Will answer your kind letter that we received and read with pleasure. Well, hope you all are well. We are having warm weather and we have a rain and it turns cold. Gardens are late. The bugs and worms are eating all the stuff. Of most of all birds. Have had sand storms and hail and big rains north of town. The hail killed Tom Fagan's cotton. Last week the sand killed their cotton. They all have to plant over. The boy sure is up against it. Times is hard around here. Ollie had to plant most of his and it never came up. There will be some berries. Mr. Tipps has planted his melons over two or three times. They haven't got no stand--the bugs and worms are eating them up. I talked to Mirtie and she said they had planted their water melons over about 4 times and did not know whether they would make any or not. Grain crops are good here...I guess they will go to cutting this week. Wish I could see you all. . . "
Besides the family photos and the letters, my husband also has the cotton sacks that his family used when pulling cotton, They are quite long, probably five feet, and you dragged them across the field with you. I can imagine it was a tiring, dusty job. And all the family participated.
One doesn't have to go back generations to tell stories of grit. My husband can tell his story as well. He remembers when he was about five years old, he joined his parents pulling cotton. His mother even made him his own bag to carry. He remembers getting paid a shiny half dollar for a day's work. When he was older, he would ride his bike to the farm to pull cotton and probably earned a silver dollar! Our grandkids should know this story!
Tell your own stories of grit!
I know most of you can tell your grandchildren your own stories of grit. Most of my readers are children of the Greatest Generation. Those people endured a Great Depression and a world war. They certainly have stories of endurance and bravery. And our grandchildren and great-grandchildren should know our stories as well--whether we had to get up early to deliver morning newspapers to babysitting children for a mere $.50 an hour. And many of you can tell your stories of Viet Nam. There are other hardships as well that only you can tell...that only you know. Share that--it really is important.
Tell the old stories first!
Our ancestors deserve that. As my husband and I have read his family's old letters, we realize how these people from a couple of generations ago toiled and labored. We need to know that--we need to be reminded of that. And certainly share with our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It's very important that they learn about their heritage. Please share your stories of GRIT!
"Grit is not just simple elbow-grease term for endurance. It is an often invisible display of endurance that lets you stay in an uncomfortable place, work hard to improve upon a given interest and do it again and again." Sarah Lewis
"Your dreams are on the other side of your grit." Anonymous
* A final word~
I mentioned that today's generation may not have hardships, but I know that's not true. They often face the same hardships as other generations faced--their parent losing a job, a move to another town, an illness of a loved one, or parents just trying to make ends meet. And they also have to deal with day-to-day stress whether it be a failing grade, not making the athletic team, or not getting a part in a play. Children of all ages need to know how to deal with that, and that those things are just part of life. They need to develop grit........parents and grandparents can assist with that. Tell your stories--they need to know!
"Fun Fact" addition to this week's blog:
I often ask a friend to proofread my blog. This week I asked my friend Kathy. She had a fun story to tell about this subject. She was born in Childress, Texas, and her grandparents leased land in that area for cotton farming. When the cotton was ready, her mother would often help the family out by "pulling bolls." When she did, she sometimes pulled Kathy behind her on her cotton sack. Sure wish I had a picture of that!
Have you ever seen a talk show wherein the participants stress the importance of thanking a loved one in writing while we still have the chance to do it? That's what this blog is about this week. Just do it--it's later than you think!
Years ago, a beloved principal suggested strongly that a fellow teacher and I take the writing institute. It was a three week course, so that was asking a lot, but Teresa and I did it. It changed my life!
One of the tenets of the course is that the teacher write while her students are writing--what better teaching than to model it and share your writing. So one of the facilitators in the writing workshop was writing a book for her father. As I recall, it was a series of essays on her memories of her father. I was so taken with that, that I started writing essays for my mother. I wasn't as aggressive as my instructor, but for my mother's birthday and Mother's Day, I wrote and sent her an essay. Some piece of writing about memories of her from my childhood.
One summer my sisters' birthdays rolled around (they both have July birthdays), so I decided my essays shouldn't stop with my mother, I should write an essay for them for their birthdays. I'm including it here, so you can see it doesn't have to be some elaborate piece of writing--just a snapshot of your memory. Enough description of some event to tickle their memory too, and perhaps bring a smile. Here goes~
One of my best childhood memories is washing dishes after supper with my sisters. There was always a huge argument over who was going to do what, meaning who was going to wash and who was going to dry. It never involved me--I was the youngest. I let my two big sisters battle it out, and their battle cries mostly involved the debate over who did it last. I was relegated to dipping the washed dish in the rinse water and stacking it in the drainer. I was the "stacker." But after all the tears and arguments and screams, "But, Mother, didn't I do it last night?" we could settle into my favorite part--the singing. Oh yes, there was the endless popping of the dish towels, and the rejections of a dish because it wasn't clean enough, but eventually there was the laughter and the singing: "The Old Rugged Cross," "Deep and Wide," "Do Lord," and "I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy down in my Heart." Curses to the invention of the dishwasher--I found Christ and sisterly love at the kitchen sink.
There's even an addendum to this story. Flash forward to the '90's: When visiting my mother, I often attended her sweet country church. And when I did visit, I loved that they still sang the old hymns. That triggered the memory of the essay I had written for my sisters years earlier, since the essay was all about singing those old church songs. I could still put my hands on the essay, so I sent it to Mother's pastor. I wanted to thank him for still including those old hymns in their song service. I'm not sure if he included it in their weekly church newsletter, but he did slip in to my mother's Sunday School class, and ask the teacher if he could read something. He didn't tell my mother what it was--he just read the above essay I included for you to read above. My mother, who was one of three sisters as well, listened to it and whispered to my step-dad, "That description sounds like it could be written about me and my sisters." Imagine her surprise when the preacher revealed it was about her daughters! I still chuckle about that. So there are all kinds of blessings that can come about if you'll take the time to write a simple thank you note to an old friend, an old teacher or a family member.
Always this reminder!
This blog is for and about grandparents and nurturing all those important family relationships. Writing a thank you note to your siblings certainly falls in line with this philosophy. Just do it! It will bring a smile to your face, and for sure, it will bring a smile to theirs!
This week's blog is dedicated to my fabulous sisters. Besides always being there for me when I was growing up, they are fabulous role models and wonderful examples of why I write this blog. They are terrific grandmothers themselves! Thank you, Ann and Barbara! Love you!
Writing a Book Together
Your older grandkids have returned to school and you're spending time with the young one?
Make an alphabet book. Specifically an alphabet book of activities or items around your house.
This happened to me. My youngest granddaughter came to my house a couple of days a week while her mommy returned to work, and her siblings were off to school. She wanted to play "school" as well, and frankly so did I--ever the school teacher! We decided to make an "ABC" book about my house.
She was old enough and knew her alphabet, so we brainstormed together. What did we see or do around my house that started with the letter "A"? Always tempting to go with apples of course, but I tried to steer her on to other things. As I said, I'm always the school teacher, so I'm sure we talked about concrete items as well as action words.
It's a pretty straightforward endeavor. Just make it what you will. You and your grandchild can go around the house finding various items and taking pictures of them. However, I read an article recently where today's generation is not spending much time (if at all) on hands-on arts and crafts due to curriculum changes and technology. So by all means, have them draw some of the things they see or enjoy doing at your house to match each letter.
My granddaughter and I actually searched the photo albums in my computer files to find some of our pictures. That works too.
Just have FUN with it!
Whether you have them draw pictures, take the photos with a cell phone or camera, find existing pictures on your cell phone or computer, doesn't matter. In fact you can certainly have a mix. I wish I had had my grandkids draw the cover of our book. I could have easily scanned it, and used it for the cover. And I used Apple books for my hardcover book, but you could certainly make a scrapbook. That would be another hands-on activity I'm sure your grandchild would enjoy--all that cutting and pasting.
Here are some bookmaking websites if you're interested:
And here's a site for board books. I've never used it, but if you have toddlers, that would be great:
There is so much to do with this alphabet book. Keep it at your house for your own story time when they come. Send it home with them, or make an additional copy for them so they can read with their siblings and mom and dad.
And I'm sure you know some great ABC books to read to them as well. Two of my favorites:
And any number of others. Plan a trip to the library with your grandchild and see for yourselves how many alphabet books are available. It just adds to the fun of this project.
And another thing:
My daughter-in-law, who is an early childhood educator, wrote me after I posted this. She pointed out the research involving alphabet books and literacy development. It got me searching for online articles. Here are two I share~
Got any BIG birthdays or anniversaries coming up in your family? How about adding a trivia game with questions about the honoree/s to the festivities? I'll show you what I've learned.
This past weekend was my sister and brother-in-law's 60th wedding anniversary! What a GREAT event, right? My niece and nephew and their spouses had really pulled off a grand event for their 50th. Their 60th was very special too, but the guest list was more family-oriented this time. I had seen a trivia questionnaire online for a 50th wedding anniversary--I thought that might work for the celebration for my sister's 60th. I considered since it was a more casual affair (with lots of great-grandkids to consider this time), that a trivia game just might work. I checked with my niece and she agreed--she told me to please bring it.
The procedure is pretty straightforward. My sister married in 1958, so I just googled major news events from that year. I also googled such things as the #1 hit of that year, the #1 movie, TV show, etc. I also thought it would be interesting if I asked such questions as "What was Papa's salary in 1958?" Things like that. I let people work in partners and I even let them google if they wanted.
Then add some personal questions about the couple such as....what are your pet names for each other? How did you meet? I gave a copy of the questions to the honored couple for them to fill out as well. Then we could go right to the source to find out the answer to some of those questions that only those two could answer. I let the kids and grandkids work in pairs if they wanted to. It prompted lots of discussion. And they learned some interesting facts about their parents/grandparents that night.
You get the idea. Just come up with questions about news events of the day, pop culture, salary, what car they drove back in the day, questions related specifically to their courtship and wedding. Make it FUN!
And you can see this would work for a milestone birthday (75, 80, 90, 100) or a retirement dinner. And besides being fun, family would really learn a lot about their loved one/s. That's very important too, in the life and traditions of a family.
When I found this online, one family had used it as a Family Feud-type game wherein the attendees tried to match the honorees. Or you can just have the party-goers fill it out, and award prizes to the one/s who got the most answers right. The important thing is just to have fun with it. And learn something about your family elders.
Please share anything you've done to celebrate important family milestones. I love to hear and add it to my repertoire.
Until next week, happy September!
Retired school teacher and now full time grandmother sharing ideas and looking for new ones about grandparenting!