Monday, June 27, 2011

The very worse grandma ever

Hal and I just spent a week taking care of our three young grandchildren while their parents led a group of middle schoolers on their annual trek to Washington, DC.

I approached the week with both fear and anticipation. We had planned a list of fun activities and a menu of meals we hoped would please as well as nourish. We knew the behavioral rules and household routines their parents follow and determined to lovingly but firmly carry these out. I had even asked a group of close friends to be praying for us during the week. (Am I wimpy, or what?)

All this preparation and prayer helped. But I am again impressed by how challenging it is to raise children. Especially little children. They can be tough critters.

One of my tasks became combating the perception that the role of grandparents is to be on continuous call to entertain, to engage in a non-stop marathon of sword fights, hide-n-seek, I-spy, story books and movies, bike and scooter races, Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, X-box (I don’t even need to try and lose), drawing dinnosaurs, making tents in the living room, trips to the park and on and on and on. Not to mention the special needs of our three-year-old autistic grandson who loudly repeats every demand until he knows without a doubt he holds your full attention.

I simply did not have the energy to keep up the continuously fun-loving grandma facade. I found myself mentally repeating, “You are an adult. Respond like one.” The low point came early in the week when I caught myself in the middle of a fight between the eight- and five-year-old, yelling at them to “stop all this yelling!” At that moment I felt like the world’s worse grandma.

But that was not the norm for the week. My mature self did eventually kick in. Hal and I were able to support one another and find balance, to be ourselves and the grandparents these kids needed.

Many highlights brightened the week, like the morning Paige and I spent building a fairy house. Her idea, this was to be a refuge for fairies from the rain, hidden under a bush and behind a rock. We traipsed all over the yard gathering moss, leaves, pine cones, petals—anything that might make a cozy fairy house. We then made and posted signs saying, "Fairy house, right this way ---->", in case it was too well hidden.

At one point, Paige turned to me—totally serious—and said, “I have to tell you something, Grandma. Fairies aren’t real.”

“Oh?” I responded, waiting for what would come next.

“But I think God could make some fairies if he wanted to.”

“Yes, he probably could,” I replied.

Long pause.

“Don’t you wish he wanted to?”

Yes, Paige, I do wish that.

And I wish God would make me into the perfect grandma. But that may be a long-term project. And by the time the project is complete, you’ll be all grown-up, with new needs and other people in your life.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to support Paige’s mom and dad, with a new appreciation of just how challenging their role is.

The kids were glad to see their parents at the end of the week (perhaps not as glad as we were!), but I was encouraged that Paige asked me, “Do you have to go now, Grandma?”

            The challenge of X-box  
          Peter, a blend of innocence and mischief  
Living room tent

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