I had a lot of preconceived notions about me as a parent. Some of them accurate–others not so much. I ended up as sort of an authoritative parent. I didn’t end up baking cookies every day for the children to come home to or manage to get kids with perfect manners all of the time. There are some times when I think I fail entirely as a parent and other times I feel like I am a total win. I know all that is pretty common. In any case, the nuts and bolts of day to day parenting–I tend to be a little quirky. You will eat at the table, but we may have a dinner table conversation about all nature of taboo subjects. I’ll let you be in your room and you are trusted until I can’t trust you. The children know by heart the very few cardinal rules of this household. But this post isn’t about my parenting…well not really. Some of it echoes my parenting, some does not.
In case you are new, have missed it, or just had no idea: I always, always, always wanted to be a mommy. Yes. A mommy. Stop cringing all of you who think I should have said Mom or Mother or parent.
Becoming That Grandma wasn’t anything I spent much time considering. I know I want to be present at a grandchild’s birth. That was it. I knew I would probably push for toys that don’t require batteries. (I do–but then I am a sucker for some of them) I knew I would buy ridiculous gendered clothing and pictured the smocked dresses. But that was pretty much it.
Then we had a grandson. Infant grandson only required me to coo a bit, to pop him into the magic sling and soothe him. All fun. Breasts ached a bit in vestigial memory of breastfeeding. But, he was an infant and other than my sling abilities, I can take or leave newborns. Ok, I would never LEAVE one but they don’t call to me.
Time passed and we had older grandson visit. I coaxed him during tummy time to work on crawling. I played “so big.” I gave baths. I sat on the floor with him a bit and played–but I remembered that I was more free-range than sit on the floor and play type. Though I love to sit on the floor and play next to a baby. (Oldest child preferred that state of being, middle was entertained by oldest, youngest was NEVER PUT DOWN. (See aforementioned magic sling.) I rocked him a bit. He’d nap. We had a few hours alone where I broke all sorts of mommy rules (mmm sugar!) but I still wasn’t sure about being That Grandma.
Then 15-month grandson came to visit–for a good long time. He is at a fun age–he’d started really walking just a few weeks before. (He is now running.) I worried he’d be at that hate strangers age–but he isn’t yet. And I saw more of what being ThatGrandma means. I am not the grandma that fusses over him. I am not the grandma that is like a crazed wind-up toy all aglow. (Denise gets that with a giant gold star. It makes me nearly tear up to watch her joy with him)
I am quirky with him. Dotting ketchup on my nose while we wait for dinner? Got it. Let him sit on the counter to eat breakfast he previously turned down (when I got another chance at one on one with him) totally. Hold his hand or chase after him in the airport or store? Got it. Dance in the store? No problem. A minimum of silly baby chat. (Though at bathtime, I got a definite “water” and “bubbles” out of him. I was the first to notice that he said “Lola” as he chased her) Instead I would talk to him like I talk to everyone else. And then I would listen. Lots of listening.
I watched him interact with others. I winked and would catch his eye. (much like I do when with his Uncle Joseph) I let the child lead and explore. I am not much for direction. You want to look at the bubbles in the water rather than the bear? I find them interesting too. Let’s look at the little things. Let us see how else we can use this or do that. Show me what interests you–not what I think you need to see or do. I let him crush the cheese nips for cheese nip chicken. Then left him to run around the kitchen while I did prep–even to the STAIR. I watched him negotiate the forbidden area out of the side of my eye. It is a single step. He tried several strategies. He had fun and was fine. No reason to hover. (Yes, GRAN-MA and his mother would have and spent the whole visit preventing that exploration)
And then there was the fact that is undeniable after three visits–I am ThatGrandma–that person who can have him fall asleep as long as he has eaten and changed. The ThatGrandma “football” hold across my body–something he doesn’t do with anyone (*save for nursing). No kicking. No biting. The rock of my hips or the rocking of the chair in a quiet room…he’s down for the count.
It is in these moments I remember that I was always the girl people handed their fussy babies to, and yet I was never good at the playing “WITH” them–along side yes, but not with. I was good at the soothing of babies. I was good at bringing quiet and order. Rock, rock, sway, sway, no words, just eye contact and shutting everything else out of the world besides the baby and me. I know he will grow out of the rocking to sleep. I do hope that being That Grandma means that I will always be the one he (and the children and any other grandchildren) knows he can be quiet with, that I will shut out the rest of the world and be with him when he needs it. I want to hear you. Know you.