The Case For the Parent/Grandparents

Everyone jokes that the best part about being grandparents is that they get to do all the fun stuff with the kiddos and then drop them off when they are tired and grumpy. While this rings true to a certain extent, they are so much more than that. Granted, I’m one of the lucky ones who has my parents nearby but the ways in which they have shaped my kids into the wonderful, little boys they are have truly blown my mind.

My parents were lucky, too, at least for a while, as their parents were relatively close when we were growing up. Even though it was so long ago, I remember the time I spent over at my mom’s parents’ house in Buffalo with great fondness. They lived in a tiny apartment in an area with not a lot of kids and yet I remember it being like a trip to an amusement park. We’d look for grasshoppers, play ball in the parking lot, and try to sneak a peak at Fantasy Island (even though it was strictly taboo). My grandma used to say our evening prayers with us and then sing us to sleep, and I can still hear her voice today even though it’s been more than 30 years.

My dad’s parents lived an hour and a half a way from us, so it was a bit of a drive, but we still went there often. I’m bombarded with sensory memories when it comes to Grandma and Grandpa Sloan. The kitchen was a focal point for everyone, and there were always lots of people there, as my dad has eight brothers and sisters. It always smelled of bacon and grilled cheese, and my grandmother made everything using the bacon grease (the good way, if you ask me). My grandfather would regale us with funny stories as we ate our cereal each morning, and my grandmother would walk around and make sure everyone had what they needed, often waiting until we insisted that she sit with us to eat her own food. We’d play the jumble and my grandmother would let us take as long as we needed to get the words, even though she usually had them as soon as she laid eyes on them.

When I had my first son, my mom and I fought a lot. I’d call her with all of my neurotic concerns, and she’d get frustrated, usually beginning every reply with “In my day, we didn’t do it that way. We’d…” And I’d want to hang up on her. I wanted to listen to my doctors, who were giving me up-to-date advice, while she wanted to rely on the years of experience under her belt – neither of which was wrong. I don’t know how it happened, but we moved beyond that and I’ve only benefitted from the unconditional love and undivided attention she gives my children.

My mother has fibromyalgia, so she’s in pain much of the time, but she suffers through it to be the active and, frankly, zany grandmother the boys know. She surely suffers after they leave due to the hectic movements of two young boys and, yet, those two would never know it. They often ask me for their “mema” and, while I could take offense to that (What am I, chopped liver?), it brings me great joy that they seek the company of someone who has impacted my life in such a profound way.

My dad calls me and texts me several times a day just to tell me about funny or clever things my kids say. I’m usually on the run, as we moms often are, and he may think I’m not paying attention. But he’d be wrong. It touches me beyond belief that he takes such an interest in their lives. He, too, has had some physical ailments these days but, the second those boys walk into his house, he lights up like the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. I could become sad about this, too, as I was once daddy’s little girl to the highest power, but I couldn’t be happier to pass the torch. I know how much his love has given me, and I’m all too happy to let my boys become the focal point and bask in that sunshine, as I know how good it feels.

Let’s face it – as humans, we are programmed to want to please our parents. I’m 41, and I still feel this way. Am I making enough of myself? Am I taking full advantage of all the great roads that were paved for me by my parents? In many ways, I think I could do better but, one look at their faces when they see my kids, and I know I’ve succeeded in something. Sure, it’s just childbirth, but I’m proud of these kids. And I’m glad my parents take pride in them, too, showing them off to friends and unsuspecting random strangers.

I see photos of grandparents on Facebook, with tributes to them sometimes 10 and 20 years after they’ve been gone. These people are the pillars of our families. They are the patriarchs. The matriarchs. The sharers of stories of our family trees. The occasional disciplinarians. The attenders of baseball games. The bestowers of wisdom. Sure, they get to enjoy the kids and then drop them off when they are tired and cranky, but they’re more than that. So much more. Many of us have parent/grandparents, and our kids will only one day realize just how lucky they are.

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