Grandparents Association, Getaway Girls and Skippko’
Collective works of art by grannies and young mums.
26th Jan 2012
Thursday afternoon we gathered around a long table, grandmothers and young mothers together, led from the helm by the facilitators, from ‘Skippko’! This piece of intergenerational work had already begun. We are making three large collages on the theme of parenting. ‘What’s good about being a mum.’ The finished product will proudly hang on the walls at St James’ hospital for all to see.
Mums and grans had drawn pictures of baby clothes and wrote on them a word or two from their own personal reflection of what it means to be a mum. If you didn’t want to use words you could draw something symbolic. The drawings were then cut out and pegged onto a washing line giving the impression of clean clothes gently blowing in the breeze! Or so it did to me, I am a gran and full of nostalgia, what could be a more wholesome and satisfying sight than a line of clean babies clothes and bleached, sanitized white terry nappies all blowing back and forth in the wind. Terry nappies! You say! It’s nostalgia!
We had been asked to bring in photographs of our children. Maggie and I shared photographs taken from the same era. We looked with interest at everything, the children, the hairstyles, the clothes and the look of youth. We laughed together as we shared the memories of our dreams our hopes and expectations as young mum’s back in the 1970’s – 80’s and then following a moment of mutual silence, we had the same thought. Our heads bent down together looking at the photo’s in our hands and we whispered that we had no idea, no way of knowing, no preparation for the hard painful times ahead, the untold anxiety, the endless years of worry and stress! But here we are now, January 2012 many years on and in this group we are to be positive and encouraging. Let’s leave the pain alone we know it’s there, it happened, we can’t change that, so let’s enjoy the good memories, all the positive stuff…. As the young say… ‘Let’s bring it on’.
The facilitators handed out slips of paper with questions already thought of by both groups to ask each other. The young mums asked the grans and the grans asked the mums. This was so interesting, fun and very lively, a great ice breaker. Questions and discussions about the differences between past and present parenting brought much laughter and some unbelievable comments! However, as I am not allowed to speak of the content of the conversations due to confidentiality, I shall attempt to give a flavour, without breaking the rules. I did wish we could have had more time to discuss, but the art work was calling! Or should I say the facilitators were calling ‘order’ and onto the art work!
I have to say, what a lovely group of young mums they are, so full of energy and life, they are a generation of young women raising yet another generation of children. I learned something at this group today. I can and have often despaired when I see young children and wonder what ‘life’ has in store for them, in what feels to be a very unstable world with so many threats. But sharing this time made me realize that I had lost sight of the bigger picture. That with every generation born there comes a new sense of ‘ Hope’ for a better world to come where compassion and good citizenship will be the norm.
How will this come about? That is the age old question! But rather than ask the question we should aim to be the answer, the solution, by working together, sharing and building good community.
Thursday 2nd Feb 2012.
Grans and young mums. Coming together.
Five grans and five mums once again gathered around the table which was already prepared with plastic sheeting, various paints in trays and rollers all ready for action. A demonstration by the facilitators, Mary and Cathy, explained how we were going to draw and prepare the templates for printing. One template was a piece of polystyrene, the other a piece of Perspex. With the polystyrene we drew a picture then went over it with a biro to create an indentation. Using a paint roller we smeared the template in paint, pressed it down on paper or fabric, Hey Presto! You have a print. On the Perspex, first cover it with a good dollop of paint, then using a QTip draw your picture, turn it over onto card or fabric, press down hard…. Print number two! ‘Simples’ as the Meerkats say! Our great works of art were pegged on the washing line to dry.
The facilitators split us into two groups of five. Both groups had a large sheet of paper with a different drawing on representing the theme of positive motherhood. We were asked to write our comments on the picture. As if you were to ‘sell’ positive motherhood, what would you say? It was time to dig deep into our experiences and emotions and share that which we have in common.
A young mum spoke of her absolute delight when she held her baby for the first time, and the ‘first rush of love’ she felt for her baby despite the very difficult and painful birth. ‘I love to smell my baby’s head’ she said and described her experience as,’ taking in my baby’s beautiful scent’. We grans agreed and we too remembered sniffing our babies’ heads and necks and feeling so connected to their ‘beautiful scent’.
We spoke of when babies grasp your finger and hold on so tight! Then, as they get a little older, they hold your hand, ‘little hand in big hand’. The trust, the belief in you, the sense of protection and safety, you are the whole world to your child. ‘Remember when baby gives you a sucky kiss?’ we laughed, ‘remember the first smile and when they sneeze and look so surprised! ‘Remember baby crying for the first time, as if they are saying. “I’m here, I’ve arrived! Feed me! Feed me now!’ And breastfeeding, did you ever imagine your body could make good wholesome milk and that you would become a milk fountain! The more they suck the more you make!
We wrote words to capture the deep felt emotions and the Joy that motherhood had brought us. The unconditional love you feel, the laughter, and happiness. The pride you feel when baby does something new, and when you look at them when they are sleeping, the overwhelming sense of love and just to know that you have brought another life into the world.
We reconvened as a whole group to share our responses and to discuss how we were going to translate such emotional and passionate feelings into a great work of art that people will see, stop and take a closer look and will smile and say….. ‘Oh, how beautiful.’
Do you know what I learned today? That despite the age gap between us grans and the young mums, despite what has taken place in the world within the last forty one years, since I became a mum, huge events such as mass globalization, advances in technology, medicine, genetics, wars, terrorism and so much more; yet, despite all of this, one thing remains the same, and that is the strong bond of love between a mother and her baby, a bond so powerful that it is capable of ‘Awakening’ all the senses.’
Not just for mums, but also the dads and not forgetting the grandparent. It can be a most powerful ‘Re-awakening’ of sheer wonder, pride and joy to have watched your own children grow, become parents themselves and then one day holdout to you, your grandchild. Beautiful.
Who can say it better than the great Louis Armstrong.
“I hear babies cry I watch them grow,
they’ll learn a lot more, than I’ll ever know,
and I say to myself what a wonderful world.”
9th February 2012
Intergenerational Master Piece in the making’ by Mums and Grans.
I enjoyed last Thursday’s session so much that I kept on thinking about it through the week and looking forward to the next session which of course was today.
Today, we gathered around the table again. It was fun to be there, to be part of the group; I felt we were all relaxed in each other’s company. And so to work. After the group discussion last week we considered how we were going to collectively express our feelings and emotions and turn it into pieces of art for all to see. We decided that the image of children’s clothes blowing about on a washing line was just the thing. And for the other picture, children’s building blocks, made up from our block printing session last week would be interesting and eye catching. It will be arranged in such a way that it will resemble a pyramid shape, descriptive words will be added. The theme will grow as we begin to build the blocks onto the canvas, in fact the theme could almost be growth. As we build up the blocks it is like acknowledging our life and the lives of our children, the learning process and growth that never ends and as an aging grandmother I suppose I am moving towards the top of the pile! Or, it could even be thought of as like the labyrinth of life, complicated and of constant challenge and re-growth.
Mary and Cathy had drawn examples of baby clothes as possible templates that we could use, or we could do our own drawing. The baby clothes were drawn in such a way that they gave the impression of clothes, ‘blowing in the wind’. I smiled when I heard Maggie picking up the theme and started singing; ’The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.’ (Bob Dylan)
We drew around the templates onto the material we had dyed in an earlier session. Before we cut the pictures out, we decorated each and every one with our own personal touch of the message we wanted to convey and share about our feelings and thoughts of what it means to be a mum. All the work is good and well done and these young mums showed such artistic talents, we grans aren’t too bad either!
We had such fun and were now working as a group, showing interest in each others work and sharing some thoughts and comments as we worked on our own pieces but also worked collectively at the same time.
“Who has the masking tape?”
“Any one got the pins? I need pins”
“Do you think it’s a good idea to put this picture this way or that way?”
“Can someone thread this needle for me please?”
“Oh look! I have made a mess of this!”
“No you haven’t it looks so real.” “I can’t get this glitter pen to work, can you have a go?”
“That picture you have done of the bra for breast feeding is brilliant, looks really good.”
“I have drawn an old fashioned baby gown with ties on.”
“Oh, gosh yes, I remember those, my baby wore them as well, it seems so long ago?”
I do hope the general public who admire our works will be able to write a comment in a book. I am thinking that all of us involved in the project are sharing and giving something of ourselves, of our own lives.
Feedback can be so important and part of building up positive community. And to know that our collective piece of intergenerational art by mums and grans has made someone smile and made a difference to their day would be so encouraging.
And so I wait for next Thursday….
16th Feb. 2012
Thursday’s Mum’s and Gran’s.
“Children our one third of the population and all of our future.”
(select panel for the promotion of child health 1981)
It was another good session this week. We all turned out on a bitter, cold winters day, my teeth were chattering ! The hospitality was so warm and welcoming. I could smell the aroma of baked potatoes as I climbed the stairs, calling me! They were delicious and lots of toppings, also fruit and scones and an endless supply of hot drinks. Good food and good company. What more could one ask for? Thank you again.
We were all invited around the table to review our work. Now we were starting to see it come together as a collective piece of intergenerational art created by grans and mums and the occasional visitation of a baby! All sharing our experiences, our time and food! I keep coming back to that because I was cold and hungry when I arrived and what a treat awaited us! But back to work….
The dyed cloth which is the background to our piece of art was laid out on the table, we chose material for the washing line and placed it in such a manner that it appeared to ‘give’ with wind. This looks good and enhances the way we have drawn and cut out the baby clothes which will hang on the washing line, pegged down with our fluffy felt type dolly pegs, beautifully done by Maggie whom we named ‘The peg lady!’
Those of us who had not finished decorating our children’s clothes continued to work on them. They are impressive. I am amazed at the high standard of detail and work that has gone into these. Everyone in the group has concentrated and given so much attention to their work whilst encouraging each other and all has done with such pride and joy.
We were asked to consider the next piece of art, the building of the bricks in the shape of a pyramid. Mary and Cathy suggested that we may think of this image as the, ‘Building blocks of life and growth’ which continues as long as we are alive and breathing! The suggestion stirred interesting conversation. Mums were asked how they felt when they see their baby grow and change not only physically but also develops more skills, such as crawling, walking and speaking, drawing the first picture, going to school for the first time? I asked if they felt more anxious as baby develops and starts crawling off, possibly getting into all sorts of trouble and potential danger. A mum said she felt so relieved to get the first early months over with so she no longer feared the cot death syndrome. I remembered how I too had similar anxieties when mine were babies. Once again as I reflected I thought, ‘Yes, every age has its worries and fears, it is part of parenting.’ You could say it comes with the job and never ceases!’ Hence, why it is so important to have good community around you to always help keep these fears in perspective.
As we spoke of the continued growth and development of our children, could we possibly imagine them as teenagers, bringing home their first boy or girlfriend? Staying out all night? Getting drunk? Could we imagine our young children married, working, having their own children, going off to live abroad? Can we imagine what they would be like as adults? I know when mine were little I couldn’t imagine so far ahead. Therefore, I think the question was easier for the grans to answer, simply because we are at the other end of the scale where our children have grown and become parents themselves and have given us grandchildren, we watch the whole process begin again and again…. We see the fruits!
You may wonder why I chose to describe our children and grandchildren as ‘fruits’. Well, in the session one of the mums carefully decorated her piece of babies clothing with the words ‘50% mummy’. Someone asked her what she meant. Her reply, “I wanted to put 50% mummy and 50% daddy, because our baby is half and half of us both, but I ran out of space to put the dad bit in.”
I thought that was such an expressive beautiful thing to say. I was so touched and so were the others that we insisted she must complete it and fit it in somehow. After, when I reflected on this I thought, ‘50% mum – 50% dad and what do you have? A new life, so unique and the ‘fruit’ of their union together, of their making love.’
We were asked to imagine that if it were possible to speak to our young selves at the age of 14 – 15 years old, what advice would you give to your young self, knowing what you know now? The response was great it was all positive, not one negative.
Someone sang Bob Marley’s ‘Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be alright!’
Another said. “It will all work out.”
“Have a career on the back burner.” was another.
“Each journey begins with a small step.”
“Be kind to yourself.”
“Enjoy your children.”
“Live, Laugh, Love.”
“Strive to be who you are, and be kind to others.” There were others and some funny ones like
“Don’t drink beer with curry, it gives you terrible wind!”
There were so many positive statements made, statements that have ‘vision’ and ‘hope’ for the future. That is what we need isn’t it? We need those with vision of a good, positive and caring society along with those who are also eager to work at it. We need this for our children and the generations to come. The hope for our world is every time a new baby is born.
I came away realizing again that the only way forward to a healthy society for our children and future generations, is for us all to work together, the old and the young and if we ever lose heart and flag we just need to look into the face of a child to renew our hope again. It is true isn’t it when they say babies live in the present moment? There are the times when you can join them, no worries of yesterday or tomorrow….. just this beautiful moment, all in their smile. There is nothing like it…. If only you could bottle it!
As Muhammad Ali said: “Children make you want to start life over again.”
February 23rd 2012
Mums and Grans.Integrating…Creating art
‘Great Oaks from little acorns grow.’
All Great and wonderful people begin as small children.
I just have to start with this wonderful proverb because Maggie has said it every week, and I confess to not giving it too much thought! Then on Thursday after the group, it suddenly hit me. ‘Yes, of course, she is absolutely right.’ It fits perfectly with what we are about as a group, and most certainly captures the vision and hope the mums in our group have for their children, for their welfare, future and for their happiness.
We are down to the last two sessions, todays and next week. I shall miss the group and I’ve enjoyed every minute of sharing time and working together. It has been fun and most enlightening, restoring my faith once again of the possibility of a sane society, of a good and caring community and good citizenship.
After a lovely sandwich and some fruit, (thank you again for the hospitality). We all quickly began to work. Some of us were busy sewing the baby clothes onto the cloth canvas. Others were finishing off decorating. I saw great patience practiced by a mum brave enough to sew tiny sequins onto a little skirt. After sewing on just a few, two I think it was, despair set in and the glue suddenly seemed a much better option! Another mum declared her absolute horror of sewing and after a brief encounter with the needle and thread she gave in and did something else! “Ah ha!’ I thought, ‘truly a woman of my own heart!’ And that is what team work is all about isn’t it? Working to our own strengths and talents, so, that together we create something beautiful.
Cathy drew our attention by holding up the other piece of dyed cloth that now serves as our next canvas. Sewn onto it in such a way to give the appearance of 3D are the prints of the children’s building blocks we made. We have built our blocks in the shape of a pyramid, which as we discussed and agreed could be symbolic of growth and development from baby, to adulthood and further representing the amazing cycle of life that we are all part of, from generation to generation, as it always has been and always will be.
For the background we thought it would be interesting to write a very condensed version of the various stages in life. Starting with baby, to toddlers, to school, to teens, to clothes, clothes, clothes! And money, money, money! to dating, parties, concerts, going to University, getting your first car, hopes and dreams for the future, to working, to becoming engaged, marrying, and becoming a parent, which of course makes our young mums in the group, Proud Grandparents! And, ‘Hey, we have come full circle.’
All of our comments are positive. We could have easily written our dreads and fears of every stage in life, of our own painful experiences, as it could be argued and rightly so, that these too are part of life. But in our group the mum’s outlook is positive.
I have been thinking! About intergenerational projects and what they have to offer. It isn’t just about mixing the old with the young, or about learning to appreciate one another, or learning from one another and respecting each other and validating each other. Whilst all these things are important, good and positive, they can become an end in itself, a project ends, people say ‘Yes that was very good’ and go home.
I have been so impressed with the mums, us grans, Mary and Cathy and the project that I feel there is hope for the future, for a meaningful society. The challenge is for all people, whether you are two days old, twenty or a hundred years old. We are all in this together, that is what community is isn’t it? Each and every person has a part to play otherwise it can be unbalanced.
Martin Luther King. Jr. A man who dared to make a difference, he said, “An individual has not started living until he can raise himself above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” He is right.
Thursday 1st March 2012
Getaway Girls and the Groovy Grans!
‘Individually we are but one drop….. Together, we are an ocean’ (Satoro.)
Today was our last session together. There was little time to be sad or be anything else, because it was so hectic, so much to do in such a short time!
We were all around the table hovering like busy bees. I had to laugh when I saw two grans and a young mum sat together in a tight little huddle, sewing the last of the baby clothes to the washing line, and all onto the same piece of cloth, at the same time! I did try to muscle my way in to sew on my baby nightgown, but as it was to go in the middle of the canvas, I would either have to be double jointed just get to it or lay on my back….. sewing upwards!
Grannie Fee was so funny, after spending ages sewing at a frenzied pace, she was bright red and almost cross eyed. Mary asked her if she would like to have a break! ‘Yikes’! I thought ‘she can’t leave, it will mean I’ll have to do some sewing!’ She went off for a snack and I reluctantly moved into her place, muttering to myself. Then, thankfully, Denise asked if I would like her to sew my piece on for me. Or had she noticed that I am not even been capable of threading a needle! You see! Good Team work!
As a backdrop for the other piece of art, Becky and I wrote words and short phrases we had chosen last week, words that are relevant to our theme of positive parenting within the Cycle of Life. We talked and laughed about the circles within the cycles of life, it became a bit of a tongue twister!
Mary was doing her best to call order and gather everyone around the table. I think we all had one eye on the clock and the other on the work. We had to decide on an appropriate title, for our great works of art. I thought it would be good to have the quote Maggie had mentioned every week. “Did I?” she said, when I mentioned it! “I don’t remember!” “Yes, you know from little acorns to Oak trees?” “Did I?” she repeats, looking a bit bewildered “Oh yes, I think I may have mentioned something about it!” And so it was decided.
Now it was all coming together, and then the great moment happened when Cathy and Mary held up the work for us all see. It looked really good and there was a great feeling of team pride and ‘Work Very Well Done’. It felt great to have been part of it. We had so much to finish and so little time, yet amazingly we did it without compromising our high standard of work.
We even had some time for reflection at the end. I was so pleased to hear the getaway gals say how much they enjoyed having us groovy grans around. I certainly have enjoyed my time with them and the other grans have said the same. We worked so well together, I am only sorry it is over…. Or is it?
“Individual commitment to a group effort, that is what makes a team work – a company work – a society work – a civilization work.”
( Vince Lombardi 1913 – 1970)