It is entirely conceivable (and I do mean CONCEIVE-able) that in the next 10 years I will become a grandmother. My oldest, God willing, will be a college graduate by then, hopefully adult-ing, and quite possibly beginning to think about playing house with someone. And we all know what happens when you start playing house—you fill it up.
Biologically speaking, my own little boy could actually make his own little boy right now, and in all reality, I could become a doting (and shocked) nana nine months from today. (This is where I stop, do a little spiritual dance to the backseat-date reproductive Gods, and pray the only pants my son gets into for the next decade are his own.) Both the thought of me becoming someone’s grandma in the next year, or at some point in the next 10 years, scares me for a multitude of reasons.
I haven’t had an infant or toddler around for quite a while now, and I wonder if I even possess the patience anymore. Lately, when I am out shopping alone and I hear whines or cries from little people, I get more of an annoyance reflex than a motherly one. Thoughts like, “Been there, done that. Never again,” and “Better her than me,” swirl around my head as I walk past, enjoying my hot latte and the peaceful euphoria that is shopping sans kids. As my own kids are growing older, and I am enjoying the fruits of their independence, autonomy and overall reduced neediness, I question if I could even do the whole new baby thing again, including my own grandbaby. Truly, I don’t see myself with the energy, patience, capacity and overall willingness to endure another trek through infancy and toddlerhood. I fear this may not bode well for my future grandchildren. Could it be different when they aren’t truly mine? When I, as I have heard many a grandparent say, just “get the best” of them?
Recently, I had the pleasure of finding out when I had the chance to care for my niece’s 18-month-old daughter for a few days. I had her from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. I feared for the long days we would have. What would we do all day? My last memory of a child home with me from sunrise to sunset included me literally counting the minutes until nap time and bedtime. Would this be the same? Nope. It was not the same. Not at all. As a matter of fact, it was heavenly. I think I am going to be an awesome grandma one day. Here’s why:
1. I left the dishes in the sink. None of it mattered. Not the dishes, the overflowing laundry baskets, the toothpaste globs coating the kids’ bathroom sinks. None of it. It’s like all of a sudden a swelling wave of “Who gives a crap about the housework?!” washed over me the second that little girl grinned and giggled at me while shoving Cheerios in her mouth. She instantly became all that mattered. I felt immense relief at the thought of letting it all go for the day. But I also felt a tinge of guilt as I sat there and briefly wished I could go back to toddlerhood with my boys for a few days and actually will myself to enjoy it. I longed to go back for a day and enjoy them without thinking that the way my house looked was a reflection of my mothering. I wanted to go back and let the messes, the disarray, the unattainable perfectly put together house go—just to be able to let it all go for one day when they were little. Sigh.
2. I became a “yes” mom. OK, well not to everything, but to way more than I did just seven years ago when my youngest was this age. Yes, you can pull out all the Tupperware and pots and pans and bang on them. I will not become unnerved at the thought of cleanup after, but will sit and watch you just play. Yes, you can have ice cream before lunch. Yes, you can bring me all of my shoes, and we can try all of them on for an hour, then stand on the coffee table modeling them. Yes, we are buying that tea set, that doll, those fairy wings, that tutu, and another Barbie, and those purple glittery Mary Janes, and the matching $8 dollar hair bow that you will pull out five seconds after I clip it in. Yes, you can skip eating your lunch, and I will not panic that you are going to be malnourished, later spending two hours researching hidden veggie recipes. Yes, I will say yes to all of this because I have seen the big picture. I have seen it, and it is everything they said it was. Small stuff be damned. Not sweating it anymore. Yes. Yes. Yes.
3. I took a nap when she napped. Simple as that. I didn’t scurry around the house with a to-do list a mile long. I restrained myself and rested. I lay down next to that sweet smelling girl and closed my eyes and just let go. I let the long-standing notion of “This is my chance to do everything” just fall off my back. And guess what? The world kept spinning, just like people said it would. All of the to-dos were still there when I woke up, yet I didn’t feel behind or guilty. I felt recharged, not burdened. It just didn’t matter. It would all get done. I had no self-imposed deadlines anymore. Awesome.
4. The days I had her flew by, and I was shocked by this. I was shocked at how lackadaisical and casual I was about our time. We sang, we laughed, we selfie-ed. We ate together, we watched TV together, and I even sat down on the floor for longer than five minutes and played with toys. Was it as simple as having a different attitude toward the day that allowed me to enjoy it and not resent it? An attitude formed by knowing how quickly childhood goes by? Or was it that I got the best of her?
Perhaps to her I was new and exciting, and ultimately her good behavior (and mine) was a direct reflection of me being the yes mom. I know when my own mother has my sons, all I ever hear back from her are glowing reports of how great they are—how they didn’t fight, or nag or complain. How they were a breeze to take shopping or out to eat. I always wondered how on earth my kids could be so one way with me and so another way with their grandparent. I think I get it now. They are different because she is different. She has seen the even bigger picture, and she knows the fleetingness and speed of childhood. This makes her parent, and ultimately grandparent, much differently—more deeply in many ways and less deeply in others.
I am not there yet, in the mindset of grandparenting that is, not by a long shot, but I know I will get there. I know because when 6 p.m. rolled around, and it was time for my niece to go home, I was tired from the day, but not tired of her, or caretaking, or the heavy weight of the responsibility of mothering her. I felt filled with purpose, having been a relief to her own mother and having given the best of myself to a toddler. And that best only happened as a result of years of mothering my own boys. Ever notice among the hundreds of parenting books, there are literally no grandparenting books? It’s because they aren’t needed, because we will just know how to do it right by that point. I will be very ready to finally feel like I am doing it right. Won’t you?