Jessie Rousmaniere knows a thing or two about the broken hearts of middle-schoolers. She and her husband, Jim, raised eight children.
"It's just terrible...those years aged me," laughed the 91-year-old as she spoke with a group of much younger moms. These younger moms, members of the Mother Connection, have 11- and 12-year-olds. They want to be prepared when puppy love barks and leads to that sure-to-happen broken heart. The young moms were relieved to hear their worries have been around - and handled by parents - for decades.
The moms, grand-moms and even great-grand-moms of Atria Marland Place are the ones alleviating those worries. This monthly get-together between them and the Mother Connection women is dubbed the "Women of Wisdom" support group meeting. Held at Atria Marland Place on Stevens Street, it's an hour-long intergenerational gabfest where the 30-something moms talk about the worries they have raising kids today. A group of 70, 80 and 90-something moms patiently listen, then calm fears with their stories of surviving children's puppy love and other emotional drama.
Last week, the meeting focused on dating. An appropriate age for a first date and first kiss was discussed. So was the middle school party scene where Spin the Bottle is likely to be invited.
"My oldest is 66 but I remember those days," said Peg Gaudette, 90. "We worried about dates and parties."
"I didn't sleep when our sons went on dates...and we talked about resonsibility with them, reminding them they were now responsible for the girl," Rousmaniere added.
"I was 16 when I went on my first date. Revere Beach was popular and it cost a nickel to go," Barbara Bachand, 75, said while sitting in her wheelchair. "My heart was broken when I later went to an Army dance with a boy but never saw him again."
It wasn't a superior, know-it-all commentary by the Marland Place moms. Rather, the four women - three of whom attended with help from a walker, cane or wheelchair - talked about the importance of truly listening to their children. They also advised to always be there for them, no matter what.
"They have so much wisdom about raising kids," said Cathy Boese of the Mother Connection.
Boese had contacted Atria Marland Place about doing the intergenerational support group. She had visited with her children and it reminded her of a class she had taken in high school where they met with senior citizens.
"I got so much out of that and thought some of my friends now could continue to learn by listening to what our seniors had to say," Boese said.
Ann Sico, Engage Life Director at Atria Marland Place, thought it was a great idea.
"Some of the women don't have family nearby and enjoy interacting and sharing stories. This gives them a connection to the younger generation.
"It's a chance to see that as much as the world has changed there are things that cross the generations and stay the same like broken hearts, finding love and disappointment," Sico said, "things that we can't protect ourselves or our children from."
The Marland Place women learned Spin the Bottle is still around. They told the younger moms they need to aware of party locations and must make sure parents are supervising.
Accepting your child's date choice, even if you aren't crazy about the match, was also discussed.
"Don't criticize," Rousmaniere said, "they might elope.
"Leave it alone and you'd be surprised," she added. "It may end on their terms."
At the end of the meeting, the five younger moms talked about feeling too much like their own mothers when they ask their children lots of questions and check to make sure an adult is supervising the party.
"I didn't think my mother had an intelligent thing to say," Rousmaniere said. "That all changes when you have children of your own."
Five heads nodded in agreement.