Grandchildren can be brutally honest -- especially when they're young and simply making innocent observations about the people in their world. "Why do you have so many lines on your face?" "Why are your teeth yellow?" "Why do you have such wobbly arms?" "Why can't you get down on the floor?" "Why don't you have any hair?"
These questions come from a place of curiosity more than judgment. But it's hard not to take them personally when your grandchild asks you! Sometimes such brutal honesty can catch us off guard and keep us from tapping into our sense of humor.
Get creative and playful with your responses instead of letting your ego get the best of you. For example, when a grandchild asks you why you have so many lines on your face, answer: I got them from cracking up over your funny faces when you were a baby. Or why do your arms wobble? They're my wings that help me move faster!
If grandchildren can say the darnedest things, then why can't we grandparents! Be creative -- not defensive. Sure these little munchkins are going to strike a sensitive nerve but consider the source and remember they haven't had sensitivity training yet.
I remember my 5-year old granddaughter and I were snuggling in bed together one morning and she told me she had a riddle for me. "What has brown hair and wrinkles?" Before I could guess, she responded: "You, Baba!"
I laughed hysterically because I thought it was funny coming from her. But when her 10-year old sister recently told me to hide my grey hair behind my ears, I didn't find it quite as funny. In fact, I asked her why. "Because you look old," she said.
For older grandchildren, these can sometimes be opportunities for meaningful discussions and teaching values.
"Well, I am old," I told her. "Grandmas are old. That's one of the privileges I've earned for getting old. I got to become a grandma! And it's the best thing that ever happened to me."
That comment seemed to satisfy her because we moved on to another topic.
I could have also shared my feelings about being okay with grey hair and told her about the post I wrote on grey hair being a milestone for women of a certain age. I could tell her I believe it's important for women to embrace and acknowledge our aging process and then find the freedom and liberation to move forward in our lives. That conversation may come in a year or two. I don't want my granddaughter to be so influenced by all the negative media messages about aging that she doesn't appreciate how wonderful it is to be healthy and grow old enough to enjoy another generation.
Thanks to my daughter, my granddaughters don't have as much exposure to media images and messages as most of their peers. But they still pick it up in subtle ways and from conversations they hear.
We grandmas have the opportunity to teach our grandchildren positive messages and values about getting older and what that means beyond superficial images. What we say about ourselves when we look in the mirror, about family and friends when we get together, and about people we pass in our daily encounters can have a healthy positive influence on our grandchildren.
Clinical psychologist Tamara McClintock Greenberg, said that "we live in a Photoshop world that affects women's self-confidence and leaves them ill-prepared to embrace aging gracefully. We don't know what real women look like any more and women who do have the courage to 'go grey' could be role models for younger women as a new way to be."
When our grandchildren reach the age when they can understand that comments about our looks hurt our feelings, then it's time to have a more serious conversation. Learning to say kind things is a quality that will serve our grandchildren well for the rest of their lives.