For more than two years, since my first grandchild showed up in my column, I’ve heard from hundreds of readers who tell me about their grandchildren and welcome me to the “club.”
It’s a big club, apparently. Friendly, too. And growing. But we join it for different reasons, willingly or not.
I once knew a woman with a huge and selfless heart, who had raised her own children and a houseful of grandchildren. She loved them all dearly, but was getting on in years and feared quite rightly that she didn’t have it in her to take on one more.
That is what she told me after she learned that her drug-addicted daughter, who was serving time in prison, was soon to give birth to her third child.
“I can’t do it,” she said, crying. “I can’t raise another one.”
But when that child was born, rather than give him up to foster care, she drove to the prison and brought her grandson home.
I think of her, God rest her soul, when I hear someone say that being a grandparent is one of the greatest joys in life. It should be. And it is for some, absolutely. But not for all.
I am one of the lucky ones. My children were ready to have children. I don’t need to parent my grandchildren. I get to be just their nana — a fact for which I am profoundly thankful. And between you and me, it’s about as much as I can manage.
Yesterday, I flew from my home in Las Vegas to Monterey, Calif., where my youngest and his wife had recently given birth to their second child.
My daughter picked me up at the airport with her 1-year-old, Henry. When I called my son to say we were on our way to his place, he said both the baby and his 2-year-old brother had just gone down for a nap.
So I spent an hour at my daughter’s, pushing Henry about the house in a plastic car. When I got too tired to push, I let his mama feed him dinner.
Then my son picked me up to go to his place. Baby Wiley was still sleeping, but brother Randy was raring to go. We did puzzles, read books and sat under a blanket pretending that he was hiding from monsters and that I wasn’t exhausted.
When I couldn’t pretend anymore, I let Randy build Legos with his mama and daddy while I got to know Wiley.
Have you ever looked in the eyes of a newborn and felt him look right back into your soul?
After Wiley got hungry and started gnawing on my fist, I gave him back to his mama. Then I lay with Randy on his bed telling stories — the same story, over and over — until he fell asleep. Not everyone can tell a story that puts people to sleep. I consider it a gift.
I slept like the dead in a spare room on an air mattress.
Today it was more of the same — rocking with Wiley, rolling with Randy. Tomorrow I’ll do some more pushing with Henry. When I get tired, I’ll give them back to their mamas and daddies. Then I’ll stand in awe, watching them work so hard to be such good parents.
I don’t remember how I did it — how I managed to raise three children born three years apart.
My grandmother, God rest her soul, gave birth a dozen times. I asked her once, half-jokingly, how she managed to remember all their names.
She laughed. “I didn’t,” she said. “I’d just yell some name out the back door and it was bound to be one of them.”
Then she shook her head. “You don’t have to do everything right, honey. Just do what you have to do, the best you can.”
Good advice, I think, for parents and grandparents alike.
There are many joys in being a grandparent — rocking, rolling, pushing, telling boring stories.
It’s enough, almost, to make it worth getting old. But make no mistake. The best part of being a grandparent is seeing your child become a great parent.
(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.)