Older Than Dirt: Just a Little Guilt

My grandmother was the queen of the guilt trip. I remember going to see her and she would immediately remind me that she was all alone, and that I NEVER come to see her. I would always remind her that "I am here now." But it did not seem to matter.

I think people often assume that all kids like to go to Grandma's house. Not true!

Once they reach about 10 years old or so, Grandma's house becomes boring and they would rather stay at home. It was our job as parents to MAKE them visit Grandma - just as our parents did to us. "Suck it up and give the old woman a few hours of your precious time! She loves you very much, and who knows how long she will be around."

Ah yes. The guilt trip can go a long way, when done correctly.

Once the little ones grow up, they usually get close to grandma again. They may even call and visit, all on their own. The years between 5 and 10, I call them the "chocolate chip cookie years," when every moment is precious. They actually want grandma involved in every part of their lives. (This is before they get a cell phone, a boy friend and the texting begins!)

When the art of the guilt trip is learned, there is no end to how often it is used - especially by our own children when they are young. There is the classic "poor me" guilt trip. It goes something like this: "All the kids will be wearing those kinds of shoes, but it is OK, I know we can't afford it." Or maybe the, "I was going to the movies with my friends and planned it for a week, but I don't want to miss your birthday party. No problem."

When our kids are all grown up, we often put OURSELVES on guilt trips. We are not sure that we did everything perfect when they were young, so we must make up for it now. It was a lot easier saying NO when they were little. Wonder why that is?

My sister often tries the old lady guilt trip on me. She will even change her voice to that of weak and helpless. "But you know how confused I get on the phone. Can't you just call them for me?" Or even the, "Why can't we order pizza again. Who knows how long we really have? Don't you want me to be happy?" After that one fails, as it often does, she sometimes moves on to the, "You never want to do anything with/for me. I thought we were best friends."

Please! This is the same sister who can still beat me at arm wrestling, and will ride on the back of a Harley with no encouragement at all.

My Mother had a way of making sister and I feel guilty with just a look. She would give you her big sad eyes and suddenly you would feel like the lowest of the low. That would be just before she gave you the "all I want is for you girls to have a good life" speech. And if she cried, we were toast!

Guilt can be a good weapon for getting what we want. But it can also make us do things we don't really want to do. We often say yes when we would rather say no. Most of us are fully aware when we are doing things out of pure guilt but continue to give in anyway.

Even my dog manages to make me feel guilty. She knows exactly what is happening when sister and I are getting ready to leave the house. She will often follow me around, watching as I get ready to go somewhere. The pitiful look she gives me is hard to ignore. I wonder how she learned to do that?

Perhaps we do feel guilty too much of the time. Maybe we just want to make everyone happy. Whatever it is that awakens this emotion in us, doing something just for ourselves can put everything back into perspective.

I think maybe a day at the casino could turn everything around ... woo-hoo!