Grandparenting provides both joy, vindication
Had I known what I know now and had it not been a prerequisite to acquiring grandchildren, I would have never had children. I would have advanced past go, collected the $235,000 the Agriculture Department’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion estimates I will spend to raise each of my four children and I would have had grandchildren instead – hoards of them.
Grandchildren are children lite – all the fun, none of the responsibility. My husband, Roger, and I undoubtedly have siphoned more joy from grandparenting two babies over the last year and a half than we have parenting six teenagers.
Admittedly, when our grandparent draft number came up in 2010, I didn’t think we were old enough to be grandparents. More specifically, I didn’t think I was old enough. When we first learned Roger’s son, Jordan, would be making us grandparents, I teased Roger unmercifully. I began calling him “Gramps” and started laying the AARP offers that come in the mail every other week in his recliner rather than throwing them away.
I should have known taunting him would only ensure some similar, if not worse, fate would befall me, too. Sure enough, it was only three months later that my oldest daughter, Addi Rose, called to say she had a bun of her own in the oven. (For weeks, I expected her to tell me she was having multiples.)
One minute I’m in the prime of my life – after all, 40 is the new 30 – and the next, I’m preparing to become a grandmother at the tender age of 42. People are always squawking about babies having babies, but this was a case of a baby having a grandbabies.
I was indignant. Nobody consulted me. Nobody administered a poll to determine my readiness or willingness to become somebody’s nana. I had no say in the matter whatsoever. In this modern age of civil liberties for all – where were mine? In retrospect, I’m again thankful God was manning the ship and not I. Vanity would have robbed me of a minimum of 10 years of the sheer delight these children have brought me.
As the due dates drew near, a small flame of anticipation spontaneously combusted somewhere in my heart – a fire that began raging out of control the night Jordan called to say Shanda’s labor was going to be induced. Already establishing ourselves as pushy, nosey grandparents, we sped to Iowa City immediately, fearing we might miss something. Consequently, we arrived just as the doctor was announcing Shanda was dilated to 2 centimeters.
It was a long night.
Roger planted himself on the waiting room floor, and I went back and forth, intermittently checking on Shanda and her progress and catching a few winks beside Roger. Shanda’s poor dad, Jerry, paced the entire night – so much so I feared we might have to go buy him a new pair of shoes to wear home. Shanda’s mother never left her side.
Any worry or reservations any of us had harbored were instantly dispelled the moment Miss Kaylee Elizabeth arrived the morning of Feb.16, 2011. She won us over immediately with her 10 fingers and 10 toes, tufts of soft brown hair and button nose. With her daddy’s big blue eyes, Kaylee looked up at us as from the warming bed as if she already knew we were the wonderful, irresponsible people who would later give her Mountain Dew in a sippy cup.
Roger and I both were completely unprepared for the euphoria that now consumes us. Grandparenting is a drowning of sorts. To become a grandparent is to be willingly held below the surface of an infinite ocean of love until the heart evolves, sprouting gills that allow for lifelong submersion. Who needs air when there are grandchildren?
I encourage those presently hounding their children to reproduce to continue nagging. Likewise, I urge those who have – God bless you – somehow remained mum on the matter to begin nagging immediately. Grandchildren are opiates for the soul; Roger and I are so addicted, we need a 12-step program.
Before we morphed into our role as “Mia and Poppy,” I did not understand what had once possessed my own dad to take my two young sons to Walmart, produce his photo ID and buy them a real, live slingshot from the weapons department. Let’s be clear. It wasn’t a toy. It was a David and Goliath bolder loader, which should have required licensure to carry. At the time of the purchase, my son, Zane, was not even in school yet, and Jasper was only 8 or 9. When I berated Dad for his reckless behavior and demanded to know why in the world he would do such a thing, he shrugged and said sheepishly, “Well, because they asked me to.”
I get it now. Our grandkids could ask us for a trip to the moon and I swear on my life, Roger would be in the backyard building a rocket ship.
My husband is a Depression-era tightwad whose birth was regrettably delayed until 1957. Oh, the times I have wished I could access a time machine and send the old miser back to the ’40s to collect tin foil with my grandma. The man saves twist ties and yet, he purchased a four-wheeler for our grandchildren before either of them was walking. The evening he decided Kaylee needed a walker at our house, he went to the store and came back with the Cadillac of walkers. Meanwhile, the air conditioner is out on our van; it’s just too expensive to fix. He came home from Tractor Supply Company the other day to tell me he’d found a pink Carhartt coat for Kaylee.
“It’s only $80,” said the delirious grandpa, who once fished a box of “perfectly decent sweaters” out of a Dumpster and is still wearing them to church on Sundays.
Spoiling these kids is just one compulsory task in our larger job as grandparents – a career that comes with immeasurable benefits. As a parent, it is very gratifying to see our children nurture their own children. There have been times in the last year when I have almost popped with pride watching Jordan and Addi Rose with their little ones. Just when I was sure neither of them had the capacity to care about anything beyond the end of their own noses, they proved me wrong again, fretting over mysterious and insignificant rashes and instructing us, quite firmly, not to give the babies ice cream.
Naturally, we exercise our God-given grandparental rights in ignoring these instructions, but their attempts to protect their children’s best interests – albeit in excess – are downright inspirational.
Prior to becoming a grandmother, I could lament for hours about the anxiety Addi Rose caused me during her first 21 years of life, but every night spent pacing and every wrinkle and gray hair in my head that bears her name were forgiven May 29, 2011, when our grandson Garett David Robert was born. Even the most egregious crimes she’d committed against my heart no longer mattered because when I held Garett for the first time, I held in my hands more than just a grandbaby. I was swaddling 7 pounds, 8.5 ounces of pure, unadulterated vindication.
Just as I knew he would, Garett’s paying his mom back on my behalf a little each day. When Addi Rose posted on Facebook recently that Garett had pooped in the bathtub while she was taking a shower, I commented, “I hope he does it again tomorrow.” After all, she deserves it.
I was leafing through photos the other day from Garett’s first birthday party. Of all the photos, one in particular stood out to me. In the picture, Addi looks so beautiful, happy and fulfilled holding her son, who is wide-eyed, perfect and delighted to be on his mama’s lap. I couldn’t resist. I sent the picture to my daughter with the following note attached:
Dear Addi Rose,
I want you to take a good, hard look at this baby’s sweet face. Think about how much joy Garett brings you every single day, and how you couldn’t live without him. Then, I want you to tuck this picture and the feelings you have for him now away in your mind and heart, and you save them, honey.
You will need them, because in about 15 years, this sweet little baby will be making your life a bloody, living nightmare. He will have just gotten his driver’s license. He will be talking to you in a voice you are sure must be coming from another dimension. There will be nights you might not even know where he is or if he is safe. You won’t look as pretty as you do in this first birthday photo because the daily warfare of having a teenager will be ravaging your beauty, stealing your sleep and making you crazy. Enjoy today, because you’ll blink and find yourself wondering, “Who is this child, and where is my Prozac?”
Oh, and when the time comes, I want you to know I’ll just be sitting in a lawn chair with my feet up, chuckling to myself, thinking, “She had it coming, Lord.”
Yes, indeed. She had it coming.
(Staci Ann Wilson Wright teaches special education at the Fairfield High School; she is a Ledger summer staff writer.)