My grandmother had 12 children. When I was a kid, I loved going to her house because there were countless aunts, uncles, and cousins filling every room and my grandmother, always in the kitchen, smiling warmly and asking me if I wanted something to eat. I never gave a second thought to what it must have been like to feed, clothe, bathe, and raise 12 children, to say nothing of managing the family gatherings that eventually swelled to 60+ people.
Now that I have four children of my own, I can only look on my grandmother’s accomplishments with awe. In all those years of visiting her house, in the midst of the chaos that inevitably ensues when big families gather, I never once saw her lose her temper or say an unkind word. My father said that when he was kid, the only way his brothers and sisters knew they might have made their mother upset was when she went into her bedroom and quietly closed the door. And this was a rare occurrence. The irritation, frustration, and stress that she surely must have felt in managing a home with 14 people were never taken out on the occupants.
I used to think my grandmother was a saint. I have lost my temper with my kids more times than I like to admit. Between the piles of laundry, uncompleted chores, notes home from the teacher, dishes left on the counter… Surely only a saint could maintain a calm, patient demeanor at all times. And frankly, it’s easier to think about her as a saint because it lets me off the hook. Saints set impossibly high bars that we are not expected to meet.
But this week’s Fundamental Behavior has caused me to view my grandmother in a different light. I now think her sunny disposition was the result of a deliberate choice she made every single day to have a positive attitude. In her quest to be a good mother and a good role model to her kids, she made the conscious decision to “spread optimism and positive energy.” There must have been many days when she just wanted to stay in that bedroom with the door closed. But instead, she would take a minute to calm down and regain composure before opening the door and facing the chaos outside with joy and enthusiasm.
The COVID-19 pandemic has really tested my ability to stay positive. As I enter a third month of staying at home with 6 people (and 4 pets), I will admit I have had several of my own “close the bedroom door” moments. But when I am tempted to stay locked in my room longer than I should, the image of my grandmother smiling at me in the kitchen while my 30 cousins destroy her house encourages me to take a deep breath, make the decision to be positive, and open the door to face another day.
Vice President – Community Engagement and Corporate Communications
YKK Corporation of America