Monday, July 4, 2016

Grandparent baby steps

The little bundle wiggled in my arms. A newborn. Instant Grammyhood. Picking up where I left off when her mother was a baby. Well, not so much. Let's back up here.

I don't know about you, but for me, becoming a caretaker of a new addition to our family was not as easy as falling off a log. It was exactly like falling off a log. Sure I loved holding that new bundle. My heart was overflowing. That immediate overflow that silences the trepidation that waits beneath. (Jaws theme here)

When my first child came into our lives, I was lost. I never babysat. I wasn't even sure I liked little kids! This newcomer was an alien who came to invade our quiet, adult household. Since this little one is impossibly inept at everything, I had to learn the ropes....more times than not, the hard way. She was our test drive. Two rather reasonable adults thrown into chaos and totally oblivious as to this thing called parenting. All of the thrill of having a child dissolved into panic and shock. Random crying, sleeping too soundly, spitting up, poopy diapers! I was sure she was out to get us.

Well, we managed to pull up our bootstraps, courage and survival skills enough to welcome a second child. Both children survived their parents and grew into reasonably normal adults. Adults who foolishly decided to follow in our footsteps.

Since my daughter and husband fell into the childcare oblivion previously experienced by prior generations, everyone looked to the grandma for help. Didn't they know? Didn't they realize that this child brought back those feeling of inadequacy?

Something happens when we become parents and grandparents, its called trial and error. I knew the mistakes I had made with my babies. My children were born to a family who lived away from extended family. We had no one to rely on, to answer our questions, to give us a break. So when this beautiful little girl was born, I understood that I had to suck it up and be a Grammy.

I learned to fake it acting as though I really knew what I was doing. Things had changed since my daughter was born 25 years before. Confidence became the mask I wore. Sitting with a crying mommy, crying baby and frustrated daddy taught me to put on my 'calm' personae. My performance as a seasoned mother and grandmother should have earned me an Oscar. I was fantastic.

Since then, I have gained three more grandchildren. The twins have in themselves brought on another level of experience. It is not easy to be a grandparent. We stand on the outside and watch the drama unfold, trying hard to let the parents make their own mistakes while wanting the best for all. We play until the kids are worn out. We read books with our failing eyesight. We play on the floor with aching knees and backs. We encourage manners to the point that we want to toss Miss Manners out the door. We try to see the world from a child's point of view, always in tune with their needs. We are the shadow in the room. We are the ones depended on to babysit, comfort the sick child, feed the pets, water the plants, the comforting hand and the listening ear. We are the grandparents.

I write with honesty so must make a confession here. Sometimes I don't want to do the things that I am asked to do....or even offer to do. I go home exhausted. Sometimes I agree when I am not so sure that I do agree. Many times I swallow my pride and my words in order to avoid conflict. Sometimes I am hurt and work through it on my own. Often I feel on the outside of my family's lives. I do not believe in self-pity, but I need to allow myself to feel. Sometimes I feel used. Sometimes I feel sad.

Parenting on all levels is a difficult thing. Each phase of our lives presents a new set of rules. Life evolves and changes. If we do not do the same, we lose. In this growing and learning, I have been self taught. I choose positive over negative. I choose to advance rather than retreat. I choose to be active instead of pathetic.

Yes, the journey is hard. And a big YES, the journey is fraught is things like love, hugs, kisses, successes, laughter, sweet moments cherished each and every day of my life.

My days as a Grammy and a MeMe are ever evolving. My days as a parent have changed. The babysteps I took in the beginning have continued with each change in my family dynamic and each change in these people I love. There is no rating of me as either a parent or grandparent. I have done the best I could do. Failures have been followed by successes. Doubts set aside by forgiveness. The loss of older family members has made me view life in a different way. I cannot pass on what I have learned to my children. They must learn for themselves. I cannot make the way easier, but I can be their support.  I know the preciousness of each moment I have with my family and friends.

Life is a lovely journey. A journey of baby steps.

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