Grandma's Pearls

I would like to invite you to join me on a journey. On November 1st, 2003, my mother died of pancreatic cancer. Her passing meant not just that I had lost a cherished family member, or that our community had lost a compassionate human being, but as a grandma she had a plethora of "pearls" on nearly any topic of child rearing, and these were gone with her as well. When I became a pediatrician in 1988, I would tap into her common-sense knowledge on a regular basis. Through the years, I found that many of my pediatric patients' grandparents enjoyed sharing their words of wisdom with me in my office, and I found these pearls especially valuable when I started my own family over ten years ago.

The journey I'm proposing is a shared attempt to capture this vast collection of accumulated wisdom on my blog. "Grandma's Pearl's" will celebrate a very special group of individuals who deserve to have a forum for sharing their hard-earned life lessons with others. It will be a compilation of advice from grandparents from all walks of life...capturing the insights of the grandparent-next-door, to the still-out-in-the workforce grandparent, to more.

My hope is that "Grandma's Pearls" will be a ray of inspiration for both new parents and experienced parents alike. Not a "how-to" manual on baby care, but rather a collection of practical, no-nonsense tips on how to raise good kids. You can share a couple of sentences, a paragraph, or a full-blown story if you'd like. I welcome you to share your pearls of wisdom and wit with the world!

Questions (these are suggestions only)....substitute in "dad, grandfather," etc. where appropriate:

  1. What tips do you (or passed down from your mother, mother-in-law, or grandmother) have on raising caring, happy, responsible, and well-adjusted kids?

  2. What did you (or your mom) do right, and/or what could have been done better?

  3. Was there a transforming moment in your (or your mom's) life that served as a guide in raising children? As a result of this moment, is there a "pearl" to pass on?

  4. Do you have a favorite "grandmotherly" quote that has helped you in parenting your children?

To submit a "pearl" click on:



Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Opposite of Loneliness

Last Monday, my co-worker told me about her friend's tragic loss.  Her friend is the mother of Marina Keegan.  Marina lost her life at the age of 22, but she had wisdom beyond her young years.  It would be a parent's and grandparent's dream to raise a child like Marina.  Read on....   

University | 3:10 a.m. | May. 27, 2012 | By Marina Keegan

KEEGAN: The Opposite of Loneliness

The piece below was written by Marina Keegan '12 for a special edition of the News distributed at the class of 2012's commencement exercises last week. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday. She was 22.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.
It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.
Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.
This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.
But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clich├ęd “should haves...” “if I’d...” “wish I’d...”
Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.
But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.
We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.
When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.
For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…
What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.
In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.
We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.
We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Heart Hotel

Here's a wonderful pearl from Janet Childs, who recently conducted a workshop on burnout prevention for mental health professionals:

I am a grandmother who works in the Grief counseling and Critical Incident Stress fields. I have, over the past 35 years, had the honor of working with many people facing serious illness, grief, and loss. One of my incredible clients, also a grandmother, shared this concept of loss and grief with me. It is called the Heart Hotel. She was a homeless woman who had sustained multiple losses of family members and friends, including 2 sons and a husband.

Her quote: My heart is like a hotel. Everyone that I love has a room in my heart hotel. When someone dies or goes away, no one can replace their room in my heart hotel. I am like Mrs. Winchester, of the Winchester Mystery House, in that I can add rooms to my heart as I meet new people to love. This is what I do with the empty rooms: I fill them up with the love, memories, and good times, that even death or loss cannot take away. It becomes a treasure forever, reminding me that love never dies.

And that is the work of grief and stress – Gently releasing the pain, trauma and loss, and claiming the love, joy, and memories. For those are yours to keep forever in the Heart Hotel.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Importance of "It"

This pearl was submitted by international best-selling author, Paul Stoltz. He's the founder and CEO of Peak Learning, and the originator of AQ, Adversity Quotient, the most widely adopted method for measuring and strengthening human resilience. He is also a devoted husband, father, and grandfather!

When I was a hormone-fueled teen filled too much "tude," I turned to my father after he caught me lying about doing my homework and said, "Who wants to go to college anyway? Maybe I won't even go!" Instead of getting mad, my father paused, looked at me and said, "That's fine! A person's worth is not decided by his education. If you really don't want to go, and you're happy with the opportunities life offers supporting yourself without a degree, then don't go! That's entirely up to you."

That's when I learned a simple mantra that helped my wife Ronda and me with our kids and grandkids: If it matters more to you than it does to them, they've won, and you've lost. "It" can include grades, school, performance, piano lessons...anything. If it matters more to you than it does to them, they win, and you tend to lose.

So, as my father taught me, a great parent is one who helps kids discover why "it" matters to them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Pearl From My Mom

It's hard to believe that it's been nearly 8 years since my mom passed away. Throughout the years, I sense that she's been guiding many of us from a faraway place. Yet she seems to whisper right into my ear at times. I feel her presence when things seem so difficult, and also when things are going gangbusters great.

We've just returned from a glorious 12 days in Kauai, and every once in awhile during the trip I felt my mom right next to me, taking in the beauty of the crashing waves, double rainbows, and dazzling sunsets. It's been 13 years since I was last in Hawaii, and on that trip both my mom and dad joined us. This time, my dad was there in body, and my mom was there in spirit.

My dad and I had some good talks on the trip. He reminded me of two things he and my mom always hoped for when raising the four of us. One is that we would always be there for each other, through thick and thin. The second is that each of us would find at least one endeavor that we felt *really* good about...a sport, an academic goal, any passion in life that brings happiness and confidence. It can sometimes take time to find these passions, but the journey is part of the fun!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Grandmother, My Best Friend

The following entry is from Deborah, who is one of those lovely people you instantly feel drawn to. She's from Great Britain, so imagine the following pearls relayed with a beautiful, elegant, British accent....

My Grandmother meant the world to me, her passing a year after my marriage left me utterly devastated. That was fifteen years ago, and it still hurts. She was not only my Grandmother, but my best friend, she taught me to love unconditionally and furnished me with endless wisdom, she was a remarkable woman and I miss her dearly. I hope I have managed to pass on to my children at least some of what she taught me, I know I hear myself saying to them things she would often say to me. So I would like to share them with you, my Grandmother’s ‘pearls of wisdom’.

Always have faith, hope and love in your life.

Respect your elders,

Look to the young for your example, they have no preconceptions, their innocence is beautiful to behold.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

What goes around comes around.

Never judge a book by its cover.

All that glitters isn’t gold.

Be nice to people on the way up, because you might meet them on the way down.

The glass is always half full – no question!

Boredom is not in our dictionary.

Live each day as if it were your last.

I have always tried to live my life with these pearls ever present in my mind.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Argentinian Wisdom

Here is our first international pearl:

Whenever we were too tired, cranky, or whining about minor things in our life, my grandmother, an Argentinian, would say with a smile:

"Al mal tiempo, buena cara" (in bad times, good faces)

to remind us that:

1. Bad times COME & GO

2. More important: bad times ARE NO EXCUSE to be impolite or grumpy.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Value of Setbacks

Dr. Robert Brooks is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and is a highly respected author, lecturer, and psychologist. He is also the proud grandfather of four. Dr. Brooks writes monthly articles for his website: In his September 2009 article, he wrote a message to his four grandchildren. There were many pearls in that article, and I'm pleased to share one of them with you:

"Appreciate that setbacks are a natural part of one’s journey in life. Years ago when I first began to write about the concept of self-esteem, I emphasized a couple of points, especially in response to some well-intentioned people who possessed misguided thoughts that boosting the self-esteem of children involved protecting them from failure and placing them on a pedestal. First, I advanced the belief that genuine self-esteem is predicated on realistic accomplishment and the unconditional love displayed by significant others; I argued that children were wise enough to know when they were given false praise or when love was conditional. The second point I highlighted was that during our lives we all experience mistakes or hardships or setbacks, but what is most important is the ways in which we understand and cope with such events. Resilient children are those who appreciate that setbacks can serve as a significant source of knowledge and strength for subsequent success, but only if one seeks to learn from the setback and consider alternative approaches in the future.

I have become increasingly concerned with the number of children who view setbacks as unalterable and who entertain little hope or optimism for future success. Believing they cannot learn from mistakes they recruit coping strategies that serve only to exacerbate the situation. They do not confront the challenge but instead they may quit or make excuses for their difficulties, sometimes casting the blame on others. Or, they may blame themselves as one of my teenage patients did when he described himself as having a “personality flaw.” The adults in the lives of children must insure that they model and convey the message that setbacks are to be expected and can serve as opportunities for emotional growth.

I thought of this message listening to the very eloquent, moving eulogy offered by Senator Kennedy’s oldest son, Ted Kennedy, Jr. who observed:

When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with bone cancer, and a few months after I lost my leg there was a heavy snowfall over my childhood home outside of Washington, D.C. My father went to the garage to get the old Flexible Flyer and asked me if I wanted to go sledding down the steep driveway. . . . I slipped and fell on the ice and started to cry and I said, “I can’t do this.” I said, “I’ll never be able to climb that hill.” And he lifted me up in his strong, gentle arms and said something I’ll never forget. He said, “I know you can do it; there is nothing you can’t do. We’re going to climb that hill together, even if it takes all day.” As I climbed on his back and we flew down the hill that day, I knew he was right. I knew I was going to be okay. You see, my father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable. And it is what we do with that loss, our ability to transform it into a positive event, that is one of my father’s greatest lessons.

What an incredible, life-transforming lesson Senator Kennedy taught his son, not only about overcoming obstacles but literally and figuratively drawing upon the strength of an adult to conquer one’s fears and doubts and establish a more hopeful, resilient outlook."