A friend is devastated because her son is moving to Portland, Oregon, and taking his eight-year-old son with him, her only grandchild I think. I have seven grandchildren, but only one is local, and I see a lot of him. If his parents moved halfway across the country, I know I'd be devastated too. Her plight got me to thinking about the differences between children and grandchildren.
I remember babysitting Jacob one night when he was seven or eight months old. He had a dream and woke screaming. I sat in the rocker, crooning to him and holding him close. He cuddled up close to me and after a moment fell asleep. I sat there holding that sleeping baby on my chest for an hour, realizing this was an opportunity I didn't get much anymore.
When you have children, you are the focus of their world in a way that grandparents can never be. If they're upset, scared, in pain--they want Mommy. I loved those years. I remember watching one of my children run a block with his arms spread to get the hug I offered from my knees. More than once, I've listened to Jacob scream, "I want Mommy!" A couple of times I've called her and we've talked strategy a bit. We don't want to have her or Daddy come get him and set a precedent. Sometimes ice cream makes it all better, and once a Lunchable saved the day--or night. He dried his tears and said, "Juju, you are the best!" I thought, "Yeah, 'cause I'm feeding you faux food." But grandparents have to realize we can never be in the same place as Mommy or Daddy.
Being a grandparent has problems too--the old saying is that they go home and someone else worries about them. That's not always true--we worry as much as parents, we deal with tantrums and tears and laughter and jumping on beds. We track their height and weight and wonder if they're walking, talking early enough, doing everything on schedule. We wring our hands over whether or not they're eating properly--and feel we can't speak. Half the time my daughter tells me I let him get away with too much and the other half she says, "I'm not going to worry about that." Fortunately we're good friends, and I can voice my opinion.
But we're different. If we do it right, we're fun in a way Mom and Dad aren't. We aren't as harried and hassled as parents who work full time and raise children. Yes, we let them get away with things--watch a little extra TV, stay up a little later at night. We take them places Mom doesn't have time for, they know we'll pick them up at day care or school if need be. At my house, Jacob can play with dogs and a cat that he doesen't have at home--at five he's just learning to be comfortable with the dogs and is proud of himself. He can watch TV while he eats his dinner--I know, I never let my children do that. Grandparents really are for spoiling children and loving children unconditionally.
I wish my six other grandchildren lived close enough that I could see them several times a week. Each is so special in his or her own way, and I'm so proud of them. But not seeing them as often makes the relationship different, especially with little ones.
Jacob was here for lunch today, waiting for his other grandparents to pick him up for a cousin's birthday party. My Aussie was loving on him, and he said indignantly, "I'm going to a birthday party. I can't go all slobbered!"