Dear Lauren,

My parents just told me and my two siblings that our grandmother is coming to stay with us for a week when my parents go out of town. I am so nervous; my grandmother doesn’t do things the way my parents do. I’m scared of how the week will be. Do you have any advice for me?

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

Maybe you should be trembling with excitement, instead of trembling with fear – what a golden opportunity this is! You get to study, first-hand, how different people react to life, run a household, and interact with their loved ones. There isn’t only one way to live life, and the more people whom you observe living their life, the more options you get to consider when deciding how to live yours.

Over the course of the week your grandmother stays with you, you’ll observe how she reacts when one of your siblings does something she doesn’t approve of, or how she responds when milk spills on the floor, or how she cleans the kitchen, or how she gives the little kids baths, or how she tells each of you goodnight. Then you get to think, objectively, “Is that something I want to emulate? Do I want to do that the way my grandmother does, or not?” You’ll probably learn a lot of lessons from how your grandmother runs the house and the family if you approach her visit that way – with a mind open to learning new ideas.

Sometimes you learn from someone how not to be.

Of course, as I’ve told my own children many times, sometimes you learn from someone how not to be. You might see some things your grandmother does which you’ll decide you don’t want to emulate. And that’s okay, too. But then you get to practice another great and wondrous tool for life: how to be respectful towards someone even if they don’t do things the way you do things. How to honor someone who thinks and acts differently than you do.

As you know, I use this column to tell you lots of secrets about people and how they operate. I’m going to tell you a big, incredibly useful secret now: All people need love. And this applies to your grandmother, too. You might be nervous about her coming to stay with you when your parents go away, but even your grandmother needs love. And the sweeter and kinder you are to her, the more both of you will enjoy her visit. I’d venture to say that the sweeter and kinder you are to your grandmother, the more you might be changing her life, for the better. Don’t let your nervousness get in the way of giving loving kindness to people – they all need sweetness directed their way, and lots of it.

The funny thing about life is that usually the worry we subject ourselves to is worse than the actual event which transpires. We all get nervous about how a situation will be in the future; then, usually, we handle whatever challenge we’re thrown with a lot more grace and strength of character than we ever thought we would. Personally, I was always afraid that someone in my family would become critically ill. Then, one day, it really happened. And I was so much stronger and more capable of coping than I ever dreamed I would be. Now my attitude is, “If God gives it to me, He knows I can handle it. If God gives me a situation, He wants me to learn something from it.”

It was just Mother’s Day, so I used the Hallmark-created opportunity to reflect on my performance as a mother. I reflected on my own behavior in running a house and raising a family, much as I suggested you examine your grandmother’s methods in those areas.

I often tell young adults to write down the things they want to learn from their parents’ behaviors, and the things they want to remember not to emulate. In my reflections on Mother’s Day, I decided what I needed was a good, encouraging talk about what I’ve been doing right. So I bought a Mother’s Day card for myself – and wrote a beautiful note congratulating myself!

Why am I telling you this? To remind you that you might also learn some fantastic things from your grandmother’s behavior the week she stays with you. I hope you’ll notice the good things she does, too.

Whether it’s teaching you how to be or how not to be, every situation is a learning opportunity.