Just Thinking: Being a grandparent is more joy, less challenge
Not that I didn’t know this already, but having grandchildren is like having a beautiful garden without spending hours out there on my knees, weeding and hoping I’m not accidentally pulling up important flower parts.
Of course, it’s not really like that.
Grandparents presumably have put in the work already. Grandchildren are more like a prize that arrives decades after you earned it.
“What’s this?” you say, forgetting about work and effort you had put in, writing a jingle about dish soap.
A note about babies.
Babies are nature’s way of easing parents into the job slowly. Babies are adorable; they stay where you put them and they have simple needs. If mothers were to give birth to 4-year-olds who want to both go to the park and lie on the kitchen floor making animal noises rather than put on a coat and boots and walk out the door, the challenges would seem insurmountable and no one would ever have children. But for grandparents, as much as they adore those yummy babies, the fun is just getting started when the babies turn into people.
Let’s face it, children are clever and funny and intelligent and often wise far beyond their years. They’re also childish, loud and intractable. To make it more challenging, parents raise children at the exact same time as they pursue professions, continue their educations and manage a house. No wonder they find it difficult to fully appreciate all their offspring’s clever, funny, intelligent and wise moments.
At least, it was difficult for me. Oh, I tried, and sometimes I succeeded. I remember my older daughter, then about 6, wandering into our bedroom one gray dawn, looking around and then addressing the two quilted lumps that were her father and me.
“You could turn this place into a disco,” she said. “It wouldn’t be hard to do.”
I also recall the Christmas when our girls were a little older. It might have been around the time they served us a special dinner they had purchased and cooked themselves. That was unforgettable, but my younger daughter took "unforgettable" a step further by giving us a box of clothes hangers. I had been short on hangers for weeks, growing more frustrated each time I did laundry, running around searching the closets for any extras I could find, so this gift was truly spectacular, and the fact that they were our own hangers, which accounted for the shortage in the first place, really didn’t matter on that happy Christmas morning.
I could recall other indelible moments, but I’m sure I let more get away from me when I was caught up in homework and groceries and work and meetings and school projects. Grandparenting, by comparison, is all indelible moments, which no doubt is why my husband admitted the other day that our daughters weren’t nearly as funny as our grandchildren, even when they behaved the same way.
Take this: Our son-in-law texted recently to say his older son was supposed to be brushing his teeth before bed, but from the sounds in the bathroom, he was stomping around and jumping up and down.
“What are you doing in there?” our son-in-law called through the door. The stomping ceased, and after a long, silent pause, my grandson said, “At this time … I’m washing my hands … presently.”
That story prompted his sister-in-law, my daughter, to counter with a story of her own. Tell a 7-year-old to hop into bed, she said, and you’ll hear the “crash, crash, crash” of a child jumping through the house, followed by a series of failed attempts to make a 3-foot vertical boing onto her mattress.
“Well, you *told* me to hop,” the child will say aggrievedly.
I remember those moments. Raising children is by definition a mixed bag of joy and exasperation, but grandchildren, for obvious reasons, are not so mixed. They’re like a box of assorted chocolates without any that you want to put back after one bite. Parents have to deal with the horrible maple walnut fillings of child-raising (apologies to those who love maple walnut), but for grandparents, it’s one luscious chocolate caramel after another.
Pass the candy, please.
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.