"Trust me, lovely, you don't want to make those choices. Not yet, anyway."
I was chatting with my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter was sleeping in her car-seat, safely buckled in the backseat of my car. We were in no hurry, heading to the high school with plenty of time to spare, the conversation had wandered into "mistakes we make when we're young parents" territory.
This is my domain. This is a landscape I understand well.
"I know," my daughter-in-law was characteristically agreeing with me, unwilling to disagree out of politeness. This is another habit I understand all too well.
I had only four days to spend with these two. I had flown them from California to visit me in Texas - first time flying for both my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter - and I was getting in every second of snuggles, chatting, and connecting that I possibly could.
"You remind me of me, in many ways. I used to drive without a license, I used to drive without registering or insuring my car. Until I went to jail. Until I found myself unable to get home to my own children because I was, apparently, a "bad guy" needing to be locked up."
"The system is all wrong," my daughter-in-law, who had been a foster kid since the age of seven, was following the train of thought I had laid down for her. The system, authority, laws. I knew this was a track we could travel together in order to bring us to the place where her recent choices would make a stop at the station of my once-upon-a-time choices and I could offer her a ticket to a new and safer destination.
"Tell me about it," I organically agreed. "Protesting and civil disobedience are necessary to change a broken system. But your job right now, your biggest job right now, is to always come home to your daughter." As if on cue, my granddaughter made a sweet cooing sound in her sleep. My heart fluttered and I smiled. My daughter-in-law smiled, too. "And, anyway, something else I learned back when I was your age, making similar mistakes. Some of those laws and rules are valid. Sometimes, we're avoiding them, not justifiably refusing them." She was nodding and I was nodding and we both knew how real that statement was.
"So," I continued, "take less chances, for now. Tie up loose ends, do dreaded paperwork, make choices that are not outside of laws, though they can certainly dance on the edges." We laughed. I had previously been telling her about my own belief in giving my sons freedom when they were little and how it had often put me in the position of being stared at and tsk tsked by strangers and acquaintances. Sure, my boys were practically naked in the backseat of the car, but they were legally buckled. Dancing on the edges of the rules!
"But," I promised her with passion, "as a long distance grandma I can partake in some important civil disobedience. Don't you worry, I plan to! There are so many places where the system needs changing, where the rules are put in place for reasons that are sometimes understandable but in practice they don't work. They harm people. Not only that, but in the places where it's not the laws or rules that are in the way but a cultural indifference or cruelty, I can step up there too! Fearless, that's what I hope I can be. For you, and for my granddaughter."
I have a feeling that at this point I had lost my daughter-in-law's interest, but not my own.
This is something I'd thought about before, the necessity of treading carefully so that we can always come home to our children when they are young, along with the necessity of carefully and cleverly, thoughtfully and purposefully, stepping onto less safe ground when insisting on social or political change as they grow older and no longer need us at home.
Because our children, our grandchildren, our planet and our fellow living beings, will always need and rely on each other. But we don't always have to play it safe.
As a long distance grandma I have the responsibility and the freedom to go the distance. I live far away and I can see far away, too. Years and intention have given me that. Listening and telling have given me that. Travel and stability have given me that.
"Anyway," I said as we pulled into the high school parking lot, picking my youngest son up from his Leadership meeting, "just take the paperwork one step at a time. Let me know when I can help. Don't forget, just because I'm a long distance grandma doesn't mean I can't get on the phone or online and help you with whatever needs doing."
My daughter-in-law gave me a smile and a thank you. She reminded me that I had just finished helping her with one of the very things she had been avoiding, and I reminded her that I would happily do it again.
My granddaughter stayed sleeping in her car-seat. Safely buckled and trusting.
We're going to prove to her that by trusting us she's making the right choice.
Her mom and dad will come home to her, and I will step into the world and ask it to be a better, safer, kinder, heathier place for her.
I'm a long distance grandma.
I'll go the distance.
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)