Grandparents’ Day , Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays come and go. But endless love is always in the air.
My son’s two sets of grandparents worship him. It started when they first laid their eyes on him years ago. It first hit its peak when they held open house for friends to meet their first grandchild. I learned on that day that grandparents can gloat over their grandchild’s looks and mannerisms, even though parental boasting is not encouraged. No matter how perfect you think your baby’s toe is, you are not allowed to brag about it. Or chew it up. Grandparents might.
You may call them for sensible advice on anything from weaning to proper new parent behaviour. They taught me that when I was tired of carrying the baby, I must not say stupid things in public such as, “I am not used to carrying weights.” Asking the baby, “You are a little heavy, aren’t you darling?” would be better received. We must behave like sensible adults. The baby is watching us. Ouch.
My friend sent her daughter off that first time to her grandparents’ house with a precise list of her food choices, specific instructions on her discipline methods, ways to implement those, as well as the detailed schedules of nap times. Nothing was followed. But as I then noticed and told my friend – the little one came back – utterly happy. Stay out, parents. Grandparental love includes ignored bedtimes and endless supplies of candy and soda. A “Grandpa Nana hangover” is a small price to pay for precious memories made and relationships fortified. And grandparents need that too – they paid their dues with us.
When they visit or we visit, they still act as if my child’s every wish is a command. Whenever I told my infant that there would be no more Baby Einstein books that night (I have read those so many times that I can quote from them at midnight, even today) they would remind me that this was coming from a girl who begged permission to finish a book at the dinner table. I hope reminiscences of my own childhood will stop before the child gets older and asks for more details to write a book called ‘The enigma that is my mum’.
The grandchild is a teenager today, but nothing has changed. I was asked to eat what was given to me, but he gets sandwiches cut into shapes. Humph. My son is allowed to have as much dessert, meat, cookies, chips as he wants, but I am not. In fact, he can decide to sleep all day, stay awake all night, mess up the house and I’m sure his grandparents will laugh it off. They might help me tidy up the mess if I do not scold him. It is selfless and sincere adulation. And this ‘grandson plus grandparents team’ gang up to tick me off for dressing sloppy, not eating enough of what they eat, getting jokes late (yeah, yeah, very funny)
I did not try to Ferberise my baby for two reasons – firstly, because I hated to watch my son cry and secondly, I knew that we would have these four adults to answer to. THAT has not changed either. One tear drop of his would sink this home. I do not mind – I know that children need this pure acceptance that grandparents give.
Theresa Bloomingdale, popular writer and mother of ten children, once said that if your baby is ‘beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on demand, an angel all the time’, you’re the grandma. Yes, and grandpa wholeheartedly agrees. No doubt they agree to the saying that grandchildren are God’s way of rewarding you for not killing your own.
I believe that children who have caring grandparents are doubly blessed. They would always have loving arms to run to. Grandparents know how to answer those endless questions that children ask; especially the ones about God – who created God, who is God married to etc. Babies know that when Nana or Grandpa is in the house a tiny whimper can get you picked up and mummy and daddy will not be generous with the scolding.
I usually advise fellow new moms – if your family lives 3000 miles away, please beg your parents to visit occasionally. They will come and begin their duty by forcing it out of the paediatric nurse that their grandchild is the sweetest baby that was ever born in that hospital. You will need them on the days when you are wishing that one of those elderly women who offered you unwanted advice in the elevator while you struggled to soothe your crying baby, lived somewhere nearby. Families may have problems, but every child needs a grandparent. Love begins and ends at home.
When I became a mum, I would often catch the four grandparents in our house giggling like school kids over my habit of waking up at night and checking if the baby was breathing. Don’t judge me, babies can be alarmingly quiet sometimes and I’m NOT used to quietness from babies. They laughed over that. But they cannot laugh at me for spending hours watching my son sleep because I have caught them doing that. I guess I got that from them. Heredity shows.
By Linda Joseph Kavalackal,
Christ & Co.