My four grandchildren all live nearby now, and am I ever loving seeing more of them, devoting more of my time and energy to being Grammy, even at the expense of other duties like the housework that I wasn’t getting around to anyway.
As the littlest guy putts about the house on hands and knees, hands spread like little lizard feet and slapping the floor rapidly with each step, I am brought back to the years my own babies filled our lives with joy and chaos. I remember how they would crawl excitedly into Grandma Rosa’s sewing room off the kitchen, where she would always greet them warmly, often welcoming them onto her lap where she would read to them or let them study her fascinating sewing machine.
I enter into my toddler granddaughter’s world as she delights in “bubbos” (bubbles), tries to pronounce more and more syllables she hears, and uses her sign language to show me she needs help with a toy. I follow her everywhere protectively, knowing her zest for discovery is not matched by her discernment of danger.
My respect for my daughters-in-law deepens, as I relive the challenges of accomplishing anything with a heavy baby on the hip, who sometimes seems most content when viewing our lives from that secure and companionable perch. I only have to do it for a few hours at a time now, while the young mommas are doing it day in and day out, patiently and lovingly.
And then there is the delightful emptiness when everyone’s gone. I relish the peace and the chance to get some things done that take more concentration, like writing a column. I definitely can’t multi-task as well as I used to.
Now I am in the position my elders were in when I had my babies. I now see why they looked on knowingly, sympathetically, even wistfully. They would offer nuggets of wisdom and perspective, and often could call out better behavior from the children somehow by the authority granted to them by age and experience. They had a certain unarguable toughness.
I’ve discovered that clout to work in my newfound position. The older two grandkids, ages 4 and 6, have learned to not waste time when I tell them to pick up the toys when playtime is over, because they discovered humbly that when they dilly-dallied too long, I said, “OK, the rest of the toys are going to go away for awhile.” And go away they did, till the picking up process became more automatic.
But I want to be careful not to come across like some old folks I knew when I was a child. They were grouchy and hard to please and didn’t seem to enjoy us children, so we didn’t like them very much.
I am aware the warmth of our bond provides the foundation for what I hope to be teaching them as they grow.
And how I am growing, too. This must be what people mean when they say children keep you young.
- WINIFRED HOFFMAN, of Earlville, is a farmer, breeder of dual-purpose cattle and a student of life. She can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.