Being a grandparent is supposed to be one of life’s greatest joys, and, in fact, this coming Sunday is National Grandparents Day. In the past, I did indeed find that when my grandson came to visit us here in Annapolis our happiness was intense—not only because I enjoy him immensely, but because I also get to spoil him, and then, too, when a two year old’s tantrum approaches like a thundercloud on the horizon, I am able to hand him over to his most capable Mom and Dad.
However, two weeks ago my son and daughter-in-law took a trip to Israel, and for the first time Brad and I signed up to babysit on our own for an extended period of time. I greeted the prospect with trepidation: it had been over three decades since I last took care of a toddler and I’m sixty-six now, not a more energetic thirty; I wasn’t sure how I would fare as a primary caregiver. Though I did have Brad along with me as backup, even he expressed a little anxiety.
As we came into their apartment, much to our surprise and delight we were greeted by a sunny little boy who warmed up to us nearly immediately and then gave us resounding kisses. When his parents departed for their well-earned vacation the following day, we wheeled him down the street in his stroller, and he was distracted enough by the promise of pizza and meatballs at his favorite Italian restaurant that he simply forgot to cry.
During our time together, he played with intensity, spinning together complicated sentences and bringing over, again and again, his stuffed animals for us to cuddle. I was proud of him for his easy-going nature and his ability to be satisfied with others who also love him. He rarely cried, never had a tantrum, though still asked for his parents every morning on waking and also at bedtime—but only broke down once into a sorrowful sobbing that because Mommy and Daddy were gone “on a trip,” he couldn’t wait up for them so they could kiss him goodnight.
To keep ourselves busy, we took an expedition to the zoo to see the snow leopards and to pat the bunnies. I read him innumerable books, sang the family lullabies, and taught him to “stab” his bananas with his fork so that he could feed himself, as well as learn how to drink from a cup.
Brad was a marvel; they played together for hours, sometimes inventing their own games. My grandson asked, over and over, for Brad to whistle nursery tunes with his “perfect pitch;” though the repetition was wearisome, his enthusiasm delivered delight. His favorite, “Old MacDonald,” sung by us in a trio, produced enthusiastic dancing, leaping about, and stamping of feet in time to the music. I have to confess I did not expect so much help from my husband, but he really delivered and I was able to see how great a single Dad he had been in his prime.
If we go about our days always wanting and expecting love from other people, we often find they come up short. If, however, we are confident that such attention will come to us naturally and easily because our partner or family cares enough to put us above all else, then we can be completely satisfied with everything they bring into our world.
I will always think of this past weekend as a turning point in my grandmother-hood and also in my knowledge about myself. It showed me that I had not lost my touch at loving as only a grandparent can, even when I was tired. I did have room in my heart for a two-year-old whose nearly-favorite word right now is a resounding “no!” And then, of course, comes his next-best-favorite as he giggles and declares “I love you, Nana!” What more can you ask for than that?