One of my favorite bumper stickers is the one that reads, “If I’d known grandkids were so much fun, I would have had them first,” which is similar to what author Gore Vidal advised: “Never have children, only grandchildren.” Good luck with that.
I’m in a grandparenting state of mind because this past Sunday was my wife’s and my day to care for our 22-month-old granddaughter, aka: The Amazing Miss Bailey Brooke.
At least once a month, we have the privilege of being with her from pre-dawn until dinner, bath and bedtime. As exhausting as a full day with the “monkey child” can be, we deeply treasure our Bailey days and look forward to her being old enough for sleepovers with Grandma and Grandpa.
As I sat at our kitchen table last Sunday, watching the little stink butt snarf up her peanut-butter-smothered pancakes (it’s a Chase thing, you wouldn’t understand) and trading goofy looks back and forth across the table at each other, I wondered what it is about having a grandkid that’s so different from parenting your own children at the same age. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely loved raising our four kids. But what makes time spent with a grandkid such pure fun?
After breakfast, we played “grocery shopping” with a Bailey-sized cart. We went through sheets of colorful stickers, placing them all over her face, hands and arms – then transferring each of the stickers from her to me, then to Grandma, then back to her own silly self. I played my guitar and sang her old Roger Miller songs while she sat high up on the bench at our upright piano – her little fists and fingers pounding out a “melody” on the keys. She built tall towers with plastic blocks and repeatedly tested the patience of our dear old yellow lab by kissing him, lying on top of him and generally pestering him in ways only toddlers can pester. Such a good dog.
We colored on sheets of paper. We rolled all over the living room on a big, squishy exercise ball. Then we colored some more. We played with stickers some more. Grandma even made a special batch of her super-secret-recipe homemade girlie-pink play dough – which was then pounded and pulled and smashed and poked and kneaded into all sorts of various creative shapes. We sat at the kitchen window and watched a pair of fat squirrels raiding the bird feeders in the backyard and laughed and yelled at the furry thieves until we were hoarse.
And the next hour we did it all again. And the next. Then, finally, it was nap time. But Bailey wasn’t sleepy, so Grandma and Grandpa didn’t nap. Sigh.
That’s pretty much how our exhaustingly busy day went until it was time to hand little Bailey back over to her home-from-a-long-nursing-shift mommy.
Later, as we collapsed on our couch, my wife and I got to talking about the difference between grandparenting and parenting and she said something exceptionally wise: “As a grandma, I can pick out the very best stuff from my memories of raising our kids – and I can do those things again with my grandkids.” And she does, indeed.
Like her treasured storybook times during our painfully infrequent visits with our other precious grandkids, “Kana,” “Nakoa” and “Anuhea.” (Can you tell they live in Hawaii?) Or making Saturday morning runs to the doughnut shop in our pajamas.
To me, time spent with grandkids is uniquely special because I know first-hand how fast any given stage in their lives will pass. I remember vividly when my own kids were this young. Then I blinked (and worked and paid bills and stressed about my career and worked some more) and suddenly they were adults. Not fair! I wasn’t ready.
Another wonderful saying about grandparenting goes something like: “A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance.”
Amen, and I’ll see you ’round town.