I love watching my grandchildren. I love it so much when their Momma drops them off at my house and leaves me in charge. I. Love. That.
I love it for all of the obvious reasons, of course. The kids are cute, sweet, fun. They hug me, they make me laugh, they snuggle up against me and tell me that they love me.
I love feeding them, and washing their sweet little faces after I do. Naturally, I am thrilled when they ask me to read to them or sing to them or snuggle with them. Being Nonni in charge is so fun!
I realize that there is something else going on when I readily, happily, joyfully agree to watch the kids unexpectedly.
Here’s what I realized today, while Ellie and Johnny were dancing around in my living room.
I realized that being Nonni-on-duty makes me feel useful. It makes me feel like I matter.
On summer days when I am at home alone, with no grandchildren to watch and no students to teach and no job to rush to, I find myself feeling pointless. Oh, I have my list of chores, and they are all significant in their own way. “Stain deck,” “Wash siding,” “Call Comcast Again,” Laundry, shopping, gardening, canning summer’s bounty, cleaning closets. They could all be called useful, I guess.
But in my heart, when I am crossing each chore off my list, I am feeling useless. I am feeling that I could so easily be replaced by a local teen or a small business or a better cook.
I can’t help it. When I am at home, with nobody here who needs me, I feel completely pointless.
But bring on those grandkids, baby, and everything changes.
Ellie needs me to pour milk! Johnny needs me to hold him! They look at me, and it is as if the sun has risen and poured its golden light over everything. When they are here, I am not the old teacher lady who was put out to pasture. I’m not the middle aged woman with fibromyalgia and arthritis and whatever else is going on that week.
Nope. When those two beautiful little people are here in my house, I am Nonni. I am the giver of hugs, the reader of books. I am the funny lady who runs up and down the darkened hall with flashlights on, screaming about monsters who chase us. When they are here, I am the one who kisses the bumps, the one who laughs at the jokes.
I am the ONE. The center of their small, protected universe.
When my grandchildren are here, I am Nonni.
I have a purpose. A job. A role to fulfill.
They convince me, with one hug, that I am important to the world around me.