I Think I Finally Get It


For years and years, I’ve been hearing the same grandparent joke, over and over.

“The best part of being a grandparent is that you get to spoil them all day and then give ’em back at night!”

Heh. Heh. Heh.

Yeah.

I don’t get it.

I’m not in the regular grandmamma situation, though, so maybe I’m out of touch. But for me the joy and contentment of being with my grandchild is not about the moment I hand her back to her parents.

And it sure isn’t about the idea that I can “spoil” her and make her a brat and then laugh as her parents try to cope with the monster I’ve created.

No.

For me, since the moment I first touched the satiny skin of my first grandchild’s cheek, it has all been about the moments when our grandbabies are with us.

But even though I get to spend every single work day with my Ellie, I still didn’t really understand exactly what I was feeling. And even though I spent the majority of the past two years acting as Ellie’s Nonni, I still couldn’t find the words to describe the depth of my feelings for my grandchild. The firstborn daughter of my first born child.

It wasn’t just the dizzying idea that my baby had produced a baby. And it wasn’t simply the realization that I loved this tiny being with every single molecule of my self.

I couldn’t describe it as the feeling of relief that I honestly experience every day when I look back on my 24 years of raising children. It wasn’t only about the realization when looking back that there really isn’t that much we can do to screw them up completely.

I made about a trillion mistakes, but my three adult offspring are absolutely wonderful people. So, see? As a mere Nonni, I didn’t have to worry that much about my every move.

No.

None of those thoughts summed up the feeling of peace and calm and contentment that I am getting as the full time Nanny/Nonni for my very own flesh and blood grandchild.

But after I dropped Ellie off at home today, I listened to a piece on NPR. A young mother who had suddenly lost her husband was talking about how she managed to overcome her terrible grief and find joy again. She talked about forcing herself to find gratitude. She recognized that true joy, and true happiness, come in the small, happy moments of every day life.

And I thought about the tiny, normal, routine moments of every day with Ellie. The moment when she greets me. The moment when she asks for my hand. Or when our eyes meet through a car window as I fill my gas tank, and her face lights up just to see me.

I thought about watching her fall asleep. Or looking at her as she kisses my old hound dog so gently on his head. I thought about teaching her to brush her teeth. About the smell of her warm neck. The softness of the curly hair.

I thought about how incredibly lucky I am to have a new chance to wrap a wriggly little body in a warm towel and snuggle her until she is warm and dry.

Grandparenting, to me at least, is about having the time and the confidence to be grateful for every moment of every day with a baby in our arms.

I swear to you. It is SO NOT about the moment when you send them home.

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9 thoughts on “I Think I Finally Get It

  1. These are the moments I treasure and remember, too. Looking forward to being with Claire next week as a chaperone on her third grade class trip to the MFA. So glad I can do this trip, just as I did it for Jack and Molly. When they get to school, it’s stuff like this that keeps you going!

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    • Oh, and I did that trip when each of my own sons went there in third grade. I guess that’s part of why I am so grateful for every minute: I know how fleeting this time will be. Even the realization that my private, special Ellie and Me time is limited, with number two arriving in a few weeks! It’s all just so precious.

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  2. OH MY goodness! I was so shocked when I got to the photo! How did she get so big already?! She’s
    sure lucky to have you as her grandma. 🙂

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  3. On a similar mind set, I could never understand people saying they couldn’t wait until their kids left the house. I can honestly say I never felt that way with our kids, I was so grateful to have them home & near to us. With both of them living away from home now, I long for them to be closer.

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  4. I am one of the women who did not enjoy motherhood but loves being a grandmother. I love my kids to death and have a great relationship with them, but it is in spite of me as a parent, not because of me. I am a better grandmother because I have really lightened up. I have come to see that there are no formulas for rearing kids which I seemed to believe when my kids were little. I didn’t allow many “messes” in their lives. Now my grandson gets to make mistakes and messes, and I teach him how to fix them himself without me trying to fix everything which is exhausting.

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    • That’s what I’ve been struggling to express, too, Eleanor. That relinquishing of the belief that I had to be perfect. Perfect house, perfect meals, perfect kids. Now I’m at the “Aw, who cares” stage, and Ellie and I are dancing in the mud puddles and fingerpainting to our hearts content. Luckily, my daughter is far more relaxed than I was, and she lets us go.

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