My friend Sally in California announced she is expecting her second grandbaby this year. How exciting! My friend Audrey in Memphis welcomed her first grandbaby last month. I have certainly enjoyed my three grandchildren tremendously. Not only have I enjoyed them, I have been taught by them. Taught by a baby? A toddler? A kid? Yes! "Grammy School" doesn't just mean Grammy is teaching the little ones. It means Grammy becomes the student! Here's what I have learned from being a grandmother:
1. Sharing. Not between the kids - I mean my sharing with other adults - the other set of grandparents. Here's a major difference in having kids and having grandkids. Grandkids automatically come with another set of one or two grandparents. All of a sudden, I am not the one of two parents; in my case, Ed and I are two of five grandparents! Time to share, certainly. Time to recognize that as these children grow up, these other adults will hold just as special relationship with them as we do. What is it that they say about joys and sorrows? With love, sorrows are halved and joys are doubled? More grandparents means more joy for the children! Each grandparent brings his/her unique qualities to the child's life we're all adding to their cache of memories.
2. Patience. Oh, this lesson starts while the grandbaby is still in the womb. Patience to find out the gender, patience to be reassured of good health, patience to let other grandparents have their time, and patience to wait between visits. And patience leads to...
3. The necessity of butting out. I have to remember these are my grandkids, not my kids. I am not their Mama, Ed is not their Daddy, and their parents set the rules and have the last word in everything. This is the proper way to raise children.
4. Priorities. As my grandbabies grew, they began helping me with priorities, starting with my first grandchild, Caroline. Every interaction reminded me of people over things. Then when we started downsizing and simplifying, I had to reexamine my priorities, as I was bringing a toy or book to the girls on each visit. What was I showing them about consumerism and "stuff"? Could my presence actually be the more important thing than the presents? Now I concentrate more on making memories. The toys will be lost and forgotten, but their memory of Grammy playing hide-and-seek will last forever. And that brings me to....
5. The importance of playing. With your own kids, you are too busy sometimes raising them, keeping house, earning a living, etc., to spend a lot of time just playing. When you're visiting grandkids, though, that's the whole point. You're free to be a kid again. You get to smell and use those crayons and Play-Doh, try to assemble buildings out of blocks, get in a small tent and pretend a bear is outside, make a puppet show, read fairy tales, make things with glue, glitter, construction paper, stickers, and pipe cleaners, sing silly songs, look for bugs under a log, chase each other around the yard! It's easy to forget I'm 56 years old (until the next day when the more physical aspects of play wreak havoc on my old body!).
6. The legacy of pictures. Rachel and Matt grew up in the film age, and we really don't have as many photos as I would like because film and developing it was expensive, and we were having trouble making ends meet sometimes. But my grandchildren are growing up in the digital age - and that means digital pictures! Thousands of digital pictures! And yes, I am taking advantage of that. I have 26,864 digital pictures in iPhoto - how many do you think are of the grandkids? Hee hee!
7. Awe. Every moment is awe-inspiring, from the first time I cuddled with them to the times I watch them soak up the world like sponges. Watching them develop into their own personalities has been fascinating. And, of course...
8. Anticipation. What does the future hold for my little ones? My youngest, Joshua (7 months), has already won me over with his smile and laugh. I just know he has much to teach me in the future and will develop into a wonderful young man before we know it! My Charlotte (5) will spend the night with us next Friday for the very first time and I know will keep us entertained. My Caroline (7) is always surprising me with her knowledge; so much of what I try to teach her, she already knows! What's next with her? What's next with all three of them? So much to look forward to! (Not to mention sometime in the next few years, I may be calling Sally in California to tell her Matt and Sarah will be having their second baby too!)
Grammy is always a student as well as teacher. As a tribute to Grammy School, here are a few past blog posts where lessons were learned. (Most of these are from Caroline, as she has been here the longest and I had been able to document more visits with her, especially as she and her family lived with us for a couple of months when they were between houses. I expect great lessons to be learned from Charlotte and Joshua in the years to come!)