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The sweetest gift – from me and to me!

It all just sort of happened. The news that my granddaughter had to begin her high school years online instead of in person devastated me. I remember how fun high school was – the crushes, the sports, the gossip, the fashion, the clubs, even the classes sometimes!

Knowing a bit about the developmental stages of kids, I decided maybe I could help in some way. Perhaps I could offer her some activities and projects that would be fun and enriching from long distance. She was game, so we’ve begun an interactive journey of self-discovery with some guidance that will help her discover who she is. Remember those teen years, when we didn’t know which way was up, and some self-definition would have helped tremendously?

I am using Bill Plotkin’s book, “Nature and the Human Soul,” to assist me with what a 14-year-old needs. It says adolescents not only need to break away from their parents, but why, and what their needs are at this time. The task of adolescence is to become our authentic selves within a social context – which are often in opposition of each other. These are things not necessarily taught in school, needless to say not online. Things like authenticity, values exploration, emotional identification, self-care, spiritual examination, etc.

This work is as enriching for me as I hope it is for her. I refer to my old child development books, read from many sources and develop plans that include fun and creativity for her. I’m trying to remember what I would have loved learning about as a 14-year-old. It’s a good focus for me as I begin this long winter of discontent. COVID-19 and colder months have driven us all inside and to a more isolated time. This has become a bright spot for me, and a never-ending source of creative energy!

Mentoring or guiding our offspring, or any person for that matter, is an important part of aging. We are handing down what wisdom we’ve gained to the next in line whether it be in the family or work-related information to others at the workplace. It seems to be our responsibility, a part of becoming whole before death.

And how can we best serve others while also serving our own growth? For thousands of years, elders have shared cultural wisdom with their children. Children nowadays need grandmothers and grandfathers and other elders to be touchstones for a calm place in the midst of chaos. I’m hoping my granddaughter will gain some of this from me.

Do we not owe this to a generation that follows? Do we not owe these kids the skills and training necessary to assume their own roles in society? We have the longer view, the larger picture of human development and can often see the significance of the social and psychological struggle of youth. The nuances of life are ours to share with other lives left to live.

Just got an email from her – she’s not quite finished building the little altar in her room from a walk in the woods collecting things that are significant to her. She’ll be ready for the next project, looking at different value systems, soon. There is no hurry, no tests to be taken, no “correct answers” to be graded. It’s just fun, and inspiring, and hopefully a reflective look into her inner being. I really could have used some of this when I was 14!

Who could use a touch of your wisdom in your world now? A grandchild? A neighbor’s child? A fledgling at work? Or, possibly Big Brothers Big Sisters has a child to share with you. What is the gift you were meant to give?

Blessings to all in this important time of giving.

Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at mmm@bresnan.net.