There I was, trying my best, and failing royally, to buckle my 2-year-old grandson into his car seat. "Is it me?" I wondered. "Or is it technology? When did car seats get so blasted hard?"
The answer? It's both. Car seats, like most other baby equipment -- with the possible exception of breasts -- are infinitely more complicated than they were back in the day when I was filling my nest.
At the same time, I am infinitely dumber. I must be.
"No, Nana," said my grandson, pointing with his tiny finger to the proper connection for the buckles, "dey go like dis."
Out of the mouths of babes.
"Thanks, buddy," I said. "I owe you. But don't tell your dad. He worries enough as it is."
And it's not just car seats.
Today, for example. I drove my daughter-in-law, who is recovering from a Caesarean section, to run some errands, along with the Buckle Wizard and his 2-week-old brother.
At one stop, they all waited in the car while I ran into a store to check on something. And when I came out, they watched, laughing hysterically, while I tried to get in the wrong car.
That in itself is nothing new. Cars all look the same to me. I've often tried with surprising success to get into the wrong one.
The difference? In the past, at least, I had the sense to avoid doing it in front of witnesses.
Sometimes I think I've spent my whole life reinventing the wheel -- trying to learn by trial and error things that others already know and might be willing to teach me if only I were smart enough to ask.
Every new stage of life brings a new set of challenges. Friends and family and even strangers offer advice with the best of intentions. There are some skills we have to learn on our own. You can't "tell" a toddler how to walk, or a teenager how to drive or a new mother how to comfort her wailing infant. One size doesn't always fit all.
That said, however, there are a whole lot of things -- enough to fill several books -- that I wish someone had told me before I took years off my life trying to figure them out for myself.
Like what? OK, let's start with the basics. I was married at 21, a mother at 23, and knew next to nothing, really, about raising a child or running a home.
Over time, I learned a few simple strategies. Here in no particular order are 10:
1. Prioritize. Feed first, play second, clean third.
2. Keep a sink filled with soapy water and put dishes in to soak.
3. Do at least one load of laundry and read one bedtime story (or more) every day.
4. Be confident and consistent. Better to be confidently wrong than inconsistently right.
5. If you're wrong, say you're sorry. Praise more than criticize, pray more than lecture, laugh more than grit your teeth.
6. Take a few minutes before bed to create order for the next day: Clear floors, close cabinets, pack lunches, make lists.
7. Do at least one creative thing each day: Fill a pitcher with flowers; write a note to a friend; draw a picture with a child.
8. Always keep a quick, simple meal on hand -- dried pasta and parmesan; canned beans and greens; fried eggs on toast.
9. Say "I love you" like you mean it. Be kind. Offer grace.
10. At the beginning and end of every meal and every day, take a moment to give thanks, to be still and know that God is God and you are you and life is good.
Those are a few of the things I learned in my years as a mother.
But I'm in a different stage of life now. I'm a nana. I need help with more than just buckles. I don't want to reinvent this lovely wheel. So I ask you.
Any advice on how to make the best of it?
(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, Nev. 89077 or at www.sharonrandall.com.)