Last fall, my 87-year-old grandmother moved into the nursing home. And as my last living grandparent, it has hit me a little bit harder of the finality of this life. Don’t get me wrongmy grandmother is in great physical health, can talk any Elizabeth Taylor movie like a trivia buff, and loves on my kids with a multitude of hugs and kisses. She can still give me a what-for talking to that can leave me, at 32, trembling at the knees and promising to get to the bank ASAP to cash the check she wrote so her checkbook can be up-to-date.

We’ve continued our chats about the world she grew up in, what her father was like and how hard her mom worked as a nurse with a bad back. She’s shared her view of the world, what she misses most about the life she knew, what it meant to live during wars and how mad she was to find my young mom and aunt wasting her good aluminum foil to make cut out crafts to decorate their rooms.

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I know what’s important to her and what isn’t, what she values, and that she really doesn’t like soup.

But her new chapter has given me pause to think about my life and the life of my kids.

It has encouraged and reminded me to keep in mind what’s important. What’s of value—at the age of 32 and 87.

And equally, what’s not of value and what that means in regards to how I hope my kids see the world they’ll grow up in.

So, I’ve come to realize this:

I hope my kids live their lives without numbers.

I hope their value doesn’t get wrapped up in the numbers in their bank account, their retirement account, or the number of bills carried in their billfold.

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I hope they don’t find their greatest achievements to be the numbers associated with the cars they own, the square footage of their home, or the pairs of shoes lined up in their closet.

I pray they don’t see their success to be what a scale shows, the number of successful diets they’ve done, or the quickness of their mile run.

I pray they don’t base their value on the number of followers they have, the times they’re asked to dance, the written tests they’ve passed, the exotic vacations taken, the number of certified letters or degrees behind their name, or the number of promotions that do (or don’t) come their way.

I hope my daughter doesn’t consider herself a good mother (if she decides to be one) based on the length of time she nurses, the ounces of milk she produces, or the number of consecutive hours her baby sleeps at night.

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I pray my sons don’t wrap their value up in the number of times they hit a homerun, swallowed their tears instead of letting them out, or weight-lifted their personal best.

I hope they’re numberless.

And not because I don’t want them to find joy and happiness in this life, to have adventures, or to be the best versions of themselves. But because their lives (and all of ours) are far greater in value than a tangible, definitive number could ever be.

These lives of ours are limitless once we give up trying to quantify them all the time. 

I’m so glad my grandmother reminded me of that.

And plus, I never really liked math anyway.

Previously published on the author’s Facebook page

Kathryn Bartling

Kathryn is a born and raised midwest girl, working to raise her twin toddlers to appreciate the world around them, dark chocolate and the beautifully ordinary moments in their lives. A stay-at-home mom after a career in marketing, she's learning to embrace the unique tidal wave of parenting, twins and toddlerhood.