Lessons for Motherhood From My 96-Year-Old Great-Grandmother

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I’m so fortunate to have a living great-grandmother, which means my children are in the rare group of people who have a living great- great-grandmother.  She turned 96 this past December, still lives in her own home, is generally healthy, and is still just as witty and goofy as I’ve always known her to be.  She’s spent her whole life in small town Minnesota (countryside), she’s humble, creative, goofy, and as determined as ever.  

It’s impossible to not see reflections of my extended family in my adult life, especially since becoming a mother myself.  

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My great-grandmother undoubtedly influenced my own motherhood, and it’s fun to reflect on just how she’s done that.  Some of these examples were shown as a direct reflection of her life, others indirectly, but regardless of how I’ve been influenced, I’m grateful for the privilege of knowing about her and her life. I think these attributes are valuable characteristics for us all to apply to motherhood and to pass on to our children.

Be Resourceful

Use what you already have, be creative, and make it yourself whenever possible.  Maybe it’s because the Great Depression directly affected her life and large family as a child, or maybe it’s just part of who she is, but my great-grandmother is one of the most resourceful people I know.  She’s currently (at 96) more creative than I ever will be, and she always has an idea for reusing or repurposing just about anything.  I particularly admire this when our current society (and, sadly, my own mentality too often) is all about newer, flashier, immediately.

Wait Patiently

Oh how I know my fellow generation of mothers can raise their hands in solidarity on this one.  Why are we always rushing and impatient, demanding the things we need must be handed to us right now?  I’m guilty of this impatience through and through, but it’s something that I’m trying to intentionally turn away from.  My great-grandmother knows the value of patience and waiting and I want more of that for my family.

Have Fun!

Never stop making jokes, being silly, and showing your love in innocent, endearing ways. 

Outward Appearance Is Far From What’s Most Important

This is actually something she taught me indirectly.  I have a specific memory of her telling me that this was always a struggle for her – to judge herself too harshly on her outward appearance – and how much energy and precious space it wasted in her thoughts.  She shared this with me once, unbeknownst to her just after I started recovery from some seriously disordered eating patterns, and it’s been profoundly influential in my thinking ever since.  Let’s pass this one down to our children, please!  It’s our heart’s state, that becomes reflective in our words, actions, and behaviors, and that’s what matters and shines above all else.

Work Hard and Keep Working

My great-grandmother spent most of her life as a wife, mother, farmer and gardener – just to name a few – so you know she understood the importance of hard work.  She even worked a part-time job at a co-op store until she was 94 years old.  “Keep your mind working!” and “I need to stay busy so I stay out of trouble!” are phrases I’ve heard her utter countless times.

Prioritize Your Family, Always

This one is self-explanatory and for my great-grandmother, a non-negotiable. 

Appreciate Nature

My great-grandmother enjoys gardening (both produce and flowers), knows about every tree name, observes the birds and wildlife outside her countryside windows, and advocates being outside whenever our Minnesota weather allows. 

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously

Get down on the floor and play with your kids/grandkids, tell silly stories, and laugh at yourself.  This is where some of the best memories are made.

Never Stop Learning

You’re never too old or incapable of learning a new skill or expanding on an already known one.  Set your mind to it and give it a try!  

Trust God (Worry is a Waste)

Whether it was surviving tornados, a medical diagnosis and treatment, or raising a family – I’ve never seen my great-grandmother worry for even one second. It’s probably what I admire most about her, and I’ve seen that same trust passed on to my grandmother and own mother as well.  May I be so blessed as to pass such faith onto my own children, too.

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