I assumed that when we became grandmothers, we’d acquire natural grandmotherly skills without much work. Kind of like the way we got our periods when we were teenagers.
I didn’t doubt for a minute that when our first grandchild arrived, the heavens and earth would part just a crack, and a twinkle would escape the crack and settle in our eyes.
I guess, if we squint and tilt our heads, our bloodshot eyes might look like they are twinkling. In a I just smoked weed and have allergies kind of way.
After eight years and four grandkids, I have learned, not only do we not become instant grandmas, but there’s a seamy underbelly to grandparenting:
1. You’re not supposed to have favorites, but you will have favorites. I’m sure this will raise some hackles. But if we’re honest, we have to admit we have favorites. Here’s the thing: The favorite doesn’t always have to be the same kid. Sometimes, all it takes to be the favorite is being free of snot-bubbles.
2. Even though we don’t get magical grandparenting skills the moment the next generation pops out, our kids still expect us to be instant grandparents. Our kids know that when we stub a toe, a string of expletives is going to fly, usually beginning with “motherfucker” and ending in “wank stain.” We can’t all of a sudden lose half our vocabulary just because little pitchers with big ears are around. Expect lectures from your children about being a good influence on their spawn.
3. You will play board games with your grandchildren, but you’re not going to like it. After three rounds of Candy Land, you’ll start having dark fantasies about the Candy Land characters. You will find yourself wishing that Princess Lolly would set Queen Frostine on fire and sink her charred remains in the Molasses Swamp. You will want to see Gum Drop Mountain fall victim to some steep slope mining. You will hope that Gramma Nutt gets hopelessly lost in the Candy Cane Forest and dies. Then you’ll want Mr. Mint to find Gramma Nutt’s bloated corpse and be so distraught that he throws himself from the spires of the Candy Castle. All the lectures you got from your kids about being a good example will be forgotten as you distract the grandkids so that you can move their pieces up the board and try to keep the game under 90 minutes.
4. You will find yourself sometimes put out when your kids and their spawn visit and you become the de facto parent. You can feel your kids shed their responsibility to attend to their kid’s needs as soon as they walk through the door. You will find yourself fetching juice and changing diapers while your kids catch up on whatever violent TV show is trendy. You know, a show that the little ones can’t watch, so they have to stick with grandma. It’s possible that you will find yourself remembering when you did the same thing to your mother. Best to not let your mind go there. Besides, that was completely different.
5. Your grandchildren will make you tired down through your bones. By the time you have grandchildren, your ability to deal with toddlers is long since dust. Toddlers are goddamn exhausting.
6. Making pancakes from scratch and baking cookies is hot, messy work. Pint-size helpers make baking even more difficult. Before grandkids, we see our future selves wearing aprons with wire baskets filled with fresh eggs. Well-worn recipe cards are taped to the fridge and the kitchen always smells of baking apples. Then we become grandparents and frozen waffles seem like a reasonable alternative.
7. Your grandkids will gross you out. They do things like sneeze directly into your mouth. They shove their hands down the back of their pants and touch your face. When they travel in packs, you can almost see the germs hovering above their heads like Pigpen’s cloud of dust. Having all your grandkids pile in your bed to watch the latest princess movie for the 11th time can be a good time. But by the time the credits roll, you’ll want to burn your sheets.
Grandparenting isn’t all dirty secrets, though. You will play Candy Land because the sweet voice asking melts you every time you hear it. Breakfast with the grandkids won’t always be frozen waffles. Some mornings you will break some eggs and get flour all over the floor. You will pull a chair up and hand your whisk over for chubby fingers to hold and watch as they slosh half the contents of the batter bowl onto the countertop.
Even though you know your version of their sniffles will knock you on your ass for a couple days, you will accept every single sloppy kiss they offer because those kisses are finite and every one of them is precious.
You will find yourself exhausted after spending extended periods of time with your little ones, but you will be tired with a smile on your face.
You will show pictures of your grandkids to people who you know don’t care about seeing them, and you won’t care that they don’t care. You will also carry around a secret pocket of smug, because you know that your grandkids are just a little bit better than all the other grandkids.
Even taking over the parenting when the family visits isn’t all bad. There is a satisfaction to seeing your kids lose the weight of being the grown-up for a few hours; the years melt away and you get to see them as they were, at least a little bit. Besides, it’s not just the grandkids you’d move mountains for. Even though your kids wag their finger at you when you teach a grandkid the proper time to say “what the hell” with just the right inflection, you’d still provide mountain moving services for them.
You don’t become a different person just because your children procreate; however, you do find a whole new spectrum of colors and a brand-new well of love, and you forget what your life was like before your grandchildren existed.
Related post: The Magic of Becoming Grandparents