The trials – and smiles – of grandparenting

By Joanne Peterson | Mar 06, 2014

I stay with my grandchildren for a couple of nights and days now and then while their parents are out of town, and you’d think I’d get better at managing the details of living 24 hours a day with a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old.  I am not sure, though, that I am better at any of it than I was at the beginning of my grandmothering years.

What has become of my mothering proficiency from all those decades ago? I had two children and – as my own grandmother was fond of saying – we all lived to tell about it.

So why doesn’t all my presumed child-management expertise come back to me? I do not know. I only know I often feel half a step behind the children. (Sometimes, I am half a block behind them.)

Yes, it humbles me to admit all this, but I remind myself that humility is one of my favorite attributes in others, so why not a fresh dose for me?

Little kids know the drill. They know what they are accustomed to – and what they expect.  It appears to me that they anticipate Grandma will remember everything they have taught her during the past few years, adding new details to the routine, minute by minute, and that Grandma will pick up where she left off, with total recall of preferences regarding food, clothing and games.

It takes about 10 minutes for me to perceive that since I last stayed with the wee ones, a few of their tastes have changed. Like me, they retain a fondness for left-over birthday cake served several times a day, with eight M&Ms® handed out for good behavior now and then. Adam still eats Caesar salad. Abby wants oatmeal every morning. Otherwise, it’s anybody’s guess.

Adam drifts into the kitchen as I am preparing lunch, day one. He watches as I put assortments of fresh berries into three small bowls. “No, Grandma. I do not want blackberries. Abby wants blackberries, but I want only raspberries. And we do not want strawberries.”

Adam tries to be patient, though his attention drifts when I launch into explaining how expensive these berries were, that they came all the way from Mexico so Grandma could buy them especially for Adam and Abby.

Adam sighs. “Grandma, I think you could have gotten some from California,” he says, helping himself to a peach yogurt as I peruse the refrigerator for an acceptable accompaniment to the bowls of berries. (These children are not spoiled, except when I’m there.)

A few minutes later he passes through the kitchen again, slowing down long enough to say, “You are a bad grandma.” “WHAT?” I ask. He turns as he exits, and I notice the edge of a grin. “I didn’t mean that,” he says. “You are an awesome grandma.”

So, yes, I forget a lot of stuff about routine and which child likes which food. But I remember that my bond with these children will last forever.

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