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Nana takes a road trip

I am off to spend a week being a Nana to my 7-year-old grandson. I can already envision his excited rush to my car when I roll into their driveway. The hug that always follows should be bottled and used as an anti-depressant.

I am in the process of packing up the car and readying for the trip — games, coloring books, crayons (washable of course). Homemade chocolate chip cookies galore.

Jordan will be in his first-grade classroom each day, but I will take him to school in the morning and pick him up after school. My hope is I can work my way into his classroom as a helper/observer with my persuasive grandmotherly personality — maybe the cookies will help.

Last time I was with Jordan for an extended period we spent an afternoon building a multipart Lego project. The large, colorful box containing 229 pieces promised to become a portly rhino with plastic companions; it was recommended for ages 6 to 12. That should have been my first clue.

Any grandparent who has engaged in this kind of tiny-piece construction will appreciate the challenge it presents, especially a grandma who is vision-compromised. But my wonder child prevailed. He had an “I can do it” attitude and successfully completed the task, quite independently, in fact. I was impressed by his focused concentration — there was only one meltdown moment, and it was instructive in my better understanding him.

When my grandson was almost done constructing the complicated-looking rhino, I said, “Jordan, you are really going to town!” He looked up at me and grinned at that statement. As he continued to build, I heard him murmur to himself repeatedly, “I’m going to town.” He later proudly told his parents and his grandfather, “I went to town!” Yes, you did, Jordan. You were awesome.

Affirmations and positive self-talk are a vital part of success at any age. Research indicates positive affirmations can “decrease stress and increase a feeling of well-being.” As I thought about the lessons learned from the rhino-building exercise, I recalled the self-affirming messages my daughter, Jordan’s mom, had written on the mirror of her bathroom years earlier. At almost 40 years old, she was trying to become pregnant for the first time. Messages on the mirror were written in bright red lipstick and said things like, “I am ready to be a wonderful mother.”

It has occurred to me that aging adults may want to revisit the power of personal affirmation and positive self-talk. Instead of, “I’m getting old and forgetful,” maybe it could be, “I forget some things, but I remember what’s most important.” Even better, “I have a lifetime of being strong and capable.”

Apparently it’s very important to write down your affirmations and assume the goal you are aspiring to has already been met. Be positively realistic. For example, “I am an adoring and reliable grandmother.” Apparently, a critical ingredient for success is repetition. Almost ready to climb in the car for a long drive — I plan to repeat that phrase along the way. The writing-down part I accomplished with this column.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor emeritus, Oregon State University. Reach her at sharon@rbtrv.org.