When my kids were tiny, and I was slightly/completely overwhelmed, I often thought about a time in the distant future when my days wouldn’t be quite so full. Days when I’d sleep for nine hours straight, when I’d go to the bathroom by myself and cook dinner with both hands– no baby or toddler on my hip.
I enjoyed my babies more than most and I didn’t wish those days away. Goodness, I’d been duly warned by every grandma in the grocery store that it all goes too quickly. (SPOILER ALERT: they were right.) Still, I used to ponder on how nice it might be to trade one of those calm days in my future for the wild activity in my house at the moment.
And that’s exactly what I’m doing right now. My darling little grandsons certainly aren’t frantic and overwhelming. But they are small. And small people need care every moment.
Sometimes, it’s as if I’ve slipped through time. I step into the bounce and sway of soothing a baby; Fritzie nestles into the curve of my hip as I carry him up the stairs. On the basement floor, we play with the same toys– the crazy yellow Fisher-Price bus, the Playmobil train that rattles around the track. Wells looks exactly like Heather’s dad, Rich*. But when he smiles he transforms into baby Stefan. Fritzie looks so much like baby Ben, but with Sammie’s gorgeous, chocolate brown eyes. Holding a little one, so fresh from heaven, heals my soul.
*who definitely deserves a grandson who resembles him!
It’s a sublime trade. I get to enjoy rocking a newborn to sleep, holding a toddler’s hand on the slide, playing peek-a-boo for hours, visits to the toy store and the park, 20 minute walks where we scarcely travel half a block because Fritzie examines every leaf and rock and the extraordinary joy of witnessing the world through a child’s curious, delighted eyes. Baby Wells is just finding his voice and he has so much to say. I think he’s trying to tell us about heaven– about truths we need to know– and his news is all good.
At the same time, I am giving a new mama time to shower, to sleep, to grocery shop. Time to paint and read and work and develop their God given talents. My daughters-in-law are not looking for time away from their babies, they simply need time to be themselves.
A few years ago, a dear friend offered wise advice, “Don’t get too busy. Everyone talks about the work/hobbies/pleasures they will pursue when their kids grow up. But your kids will still need you; and your grandchildren will need you even more.”
She lived her words. I watched her turn down numerous personal and professional opportunities with the quiet words, “My family needs me right now.”
I’ve thought about her advice so many times over the years. And I’ve learned, like so many others, that your time never really does free up. I’m constantly amazed at the many ways I could fill my days. I’ve also learned my family still needs me– at every stage, and maybe more than ever.
I’ve missed holding the tiny little hand of someone who calls me ‘mommy,’ but I get to claim the title of ‘Mimi’ for the rest of my life.
Please, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting every woman with grandchildren should quit her job and spend her days baking cookies and knitting. I’m still working for the lovely Emi & Co. (part-time, making just enough to fuel my addiction to toys, clothes, books and chocolate). I have a lot of children, and, I pray I’ll have a wild little troop of grandchildren. My children ask a lot of me; I’ve trained them to ask and that’s a dynamic I enjoy.
We all have different circumstances, family needs, expenses. Just yesterday, I spent time talking to a friend pursuing her PhD. She feels prayerfully inspired to finish this degree and make a real difference in women’s education. I applaud her efforts, and told her, honestly, I was a bit envious. My mind is agile and gifted, but my prayers have been answered with, “your family needs you right now.”
I thought I’d do some great thing and earn respect and honor from those around me. Yet, I believe my some great thing is my beautiful, growing, struggling-but-with-so-much-love family
My little grandsons are lucky enough to have two set of grandparents who adore them. What are the statistics on that? What percentage of children have two loving parents and four attentive grandparents? I love that my tiny grandsons have a whole troop of people to love them. That’s exactly the sense of love and belonging I craved as a child.
My co-grandmas are incredible. Kristin is the most creative, magical, kind human on the planet and Elizabeth is the epitome of serenity and Christlike love. I don’t have to measure up to them, but I love that we are working as team to provide as much love and support to these new little families as possible.
I can only be me. And happily that’s enough.
I deeply believe these moments count. It matters when I play cars with Fritzie for hours– watching his imagination bounce and soar. It matters when I rock baby Wells and tell him he is good, he is sweet, he is smart and funny and lovely. Babies need to hear a million words– I want them all to be kind.
I remember standing on Ben and Sammie’s balcony last year shortly before they moved into their little house. At the time, they lived in a condominium next to a busy road. I often took Fritz out onto the balcony to calm him from crying and we watched the cars go by. “Red car, blue truck, yellow bus, gray car…” I pointed them out one by one. He laughed and pointed and never wanted to go inside. It was before Fritzie had words, and I knew, I knew, he wouldn’t remember these hours pointing at cars. I also knew it mattered. This kind of love seeps under our skin– to be held, and comforted and calmed and oh-so-loved.
p.s. Hmm, this was a little heavier than I planned, but I have a lot to say. Part Two dives more into the fun stuff– what I’ve learned so far about grandparenting (still a newbie here). We’ll just see what happens with Part Three, Four, Five…