My brother and I were able to spend weekends, all our holidays, summer and spring breaks with our grandparents. I’m sure they mischief-proofed their homes before our arrival, but I think back on some of the stunts we pulled and still wonder how we didn’t seriously injure ourselves. I’m not sure if our parents were aware of all we got by with, or if they needed the break so badly that they just prayed for the best! Either way, going to Grandma’s for spring and summer meant laughter, exploration, cousins, homemade desserts, and no place to be except where our bare feet could take us!
Memaw (Mom’s mom) and Grandma (Dad’s mom) showed up in tandem to help take care of us whenever Mom and Dad needed them. I heard stories about my Memaw, who after listening to a colicky me cry relentlessly for hours, demanded that my mother “Hand that baby over!” My mother relinquished me without question to be tightly rolled in blankets and warmed by an old drum stove, putting me instantly to sleep.
Fast forward 25 years – marching in as a one-person army, my mom was the same. She stayed with me each time I came home from the hospital until I could manage on my own. In the years that followed, Mom showed up with all the essentials to help me with the latest childhood sickness; many times, taking them with her to give me time to recover from whatever ailed me. Without me even asking, she set about folding mounds of laundry, washing stacked up dishes … whatever she could see we needed. Like her, I never questioned it – just appreciated the help and thought that’s how people grand-parented. That’s why 26 years later when I joined the glorious “Grandparent’s Club,” I had a whole How-To video in my heart ready to put into action.
Geography hijacked my plans. It never dawned on me that I might be a grandmother from a distance. Nor did I consider we would have to schedule when I would come, and where I’d be when he was born. Based on my experience, my role was to come to her house and take over for as long as necessary. Slow down, Speedy! My daughter had redefined the role and yes, she would like me to come help the week she came home from the hospital with her husband’s parents coming the week after. Okay – well at least I got to be there when he arrived. With a familiar element to my role reestablished, I was content.
They live out of state, so getting the call to action meant biting my nails for 10 hours instead of pacing the floor of labor and delivery. Longest. Drive. Of. My. Life. We arrived just after he was born. Perfect timing! Nope. So there’s this thing now where parents get some bonding time with the baby without anyone else around. You probably already knew this. I did not know this. Thank goodness our daughter and son-in-law are great communicators and told us very gently that he was here, she was fine, and that they were spending time alone with our new grandson. As soon as they were ready, she would text me. I’m not even kidding, I literally heard the sound of my grandparent brakes screeching to a halt, “Okay – just keep us updated.” In hindsight, as busy as their lives are, those minutes with that little one where time stood still were the most precious of all. I’m so glad they had them.
I don’t know how long it was – maybe an hour, but it seemed like forever before they finally invited us to see him. With caution, I was careful to use hand sanitizer and look at him through tears in his bassinet. I heard my daughter say, “Mom, you can pick him up!” I remember asking if I could kiss him as I was lifting the warm little guy up. Ya’ll, it matters. Please don’t just assume you can kiss all over babies – their parents are nervous enough without having the added concern of potential illnesses.
It’s been such a learning curve for this somewhat southern Nana. What I thought I would be doing isn’t anything like what it’s evolved into. We’ve learned that no matter what we want to do, we have to respect their parents and not over-buy when it comes to presents. We’ve learned to ask them what they’d like us to buy – or not buy. That was a hard one to swallow. We offer our ideas and sometimes they mesh, other times they send us an Amazon Wish List to pick from.
Grandparents get pure joy from giving the grands tasting new foods. I was caught chocolate-fingered giving my grandson a taste of icing. “Mom, please don’t give him anything new to eat without telling us, because we’re introducing new foods selectively, so that we’ll be able to tell what it is if he has an allergic reaction to something.” Whoops. I’m glad that Pop Tart his granddad snuck him didn’t raise a reaction! Refusing to let this child live without knowing the taste, I used fruit as the appeal and asked her to put chocolate-covered strawberries on the menu for the next day. He didn’t like them as much as we did, but we’d found a great compromise!
We’ve always agreed on sleep schedules. Naps can’t be a variable. Making sure the kiddos stay on their sleep schedule makes for a much better visit for everyone. Work any schedule you have around theirs. Also, if you get the chance to get up with those grands in the morning and let Mom and Dad sleep in, do it! Not only will their parents be eternally grateful, but it’s also a precious time of day that makes for special bonding and snuggles!
Prioritize your own health. Grandkids want their grandparents around for a long, long time. Our grandson now has a two-year-old little sister. It went all the way to my soul when she, still holding her daddy’s hand, asked ME to carry her down the stairs at a restaurant! The little stinker, refusing to sit on my hip, dangled herself two-thirds down my body the whole way. Two or three steps from the bottom, I had to put her down to let her walk by herself. I made myself a promise that I’d be strong enough to carry her all the way next time. Workouts have commenced!
I share all this because we’re approaching spring, where so many grandparents get the privilege of caring for their grandchildren during the breaks. If you’re like I was, what you thought that would look like may not be how it’s turned out. As long as you keep the lines of communication open, respect their parenting decisions, not taking them personally, everyone wins!
Today, the much-coveted call came: “Mom, I need you on the calendar for June – can you come watch the kids?” I may have danced a little!