I will not have much of an online presence this weekend. I would like to get my first project imported to Scrivener. Tomorrow I will be babysitting the six month old grandson while Mama and Daddy take the three your old granddaughter to see The Ice Princesses Show for a few hours. Sunday, I am traversing southward to Melbourne, FL with a girlfriend to visit some seaside parks. The husband is off this weekend to West Palm Beach with his son and a friend to attend a car parts swap meet of some sort (that involves camping) concerning his son’s “72” Mustang. I won’t pretend to know what that is all about.
Knowing that I will be home with the grandson by myself, without an extra pair of hands to help out, I am reminded of raising my own kids. I had no physical help with that. Their Dad was at work and their grandparent’s involvement was limited. There were no aunts or uncles close by. Most of my cousins were involved in their own lives. There were five years differences in my children’s ages. There were three of them and it was like a three ring circus. I know you people with four to nine are laughing and saying, “Man, could I tell her a thing or two!” I believe you, too.
My oldest son stuffed nasturtium seeds up his nostrils when he was two, and I didn’t notice until they had germinated in his head. He started having trouble breathing. Several days later I watched in the ER as the Doc pulled them out roots and all. My daughter, who was always spraining something, fell off of the trampoline and hurt her arm. Not wanting to bother with another trip in for x-rays only to be told, “Just a sprain.” I packed her in ice and put her to bed. The next day, the arm was swollen. Took her in for x-rays…it was broken. The youngest son, fell from his swing to rip his leg open on a protruding screw. Never cried. Happened to see him, and the blood. Put a pressure dressing on it and took him to the ER…16 stitches behind the knee.
At fifty plus years, I know now why God gives children to the young. My eyesight and hearing are not as acute as they once were. My reflexes are a bit slower. It takes time for me to respond to things that I was once quick to react to. I want to be mothering but not smothering. That worries me sometimes as a grandmother. But should it?
My mother’s mother, we’ll call her Grandma, was a worrier. She fed us from cans and TV dinners served in little tin trays. She lived in a small town and watched us like a hawk. She never let us out of her sight. Whether we were in the den or on the porch, there she was, hovering. If we went out, she had us by the hand. She would never take more than two of us (there were six granddaughters) on at a time by herself. She was divorced and there was no Grandpa to lend a helping hand. She stayed on the telephone or watched television with one eye while the other eye watched us. She was a nervous person. She chained smoked. If we were within 20 feet of the street, she called us back. If we got dirty, she made a fuss over cleaning us up. We followed rigid rules in her house. She never spanked us, but had a way with words that could make you feel guilty whether you were or not.
My father’s mother, we’ll call her Grandmother, never gave us much of a thought, other than to see to it that we were well fed. She was the best cook in the county and always had sweets on the table, homemade cupcakes and cookies in the jar. We snacked when we wanted. There were sodas and sweet tea in the fridge and ice cream sandwiches in the freezer. She lived on a large farm with my grandfather out in the country. She opened the door and we went wherever, to ride the horses, through the woods, down to the pond, across the pasture to the creek to swing on the muscadine vines. There were eleven of us, and it didn’t matter if there was one or eleven, she seemed to get on with her farm life with hardly a notice to us. She ran a landscaping nursery with greenhouses and we would pull weeds for a quarter per row. Grandfather would take us to the little country store to spend it. Getting dirty was expected, and meant that she would be pulling out the #3 washtub for cleanup at sunset. Television was the midday siesta time when the soaps were on and the heat outside was too hot to work in, with her hands busy snapping beans or shelling peas, or evenings with Lawrence Welk and Hee Haw. She was up before dawn and usually still awake after midnight writing letters to family. There were no real rules, but there were expectations. If expectations weren’t met, you could plan on the hickory switch coming off of the mantel.
I raised my children on a farm. They hated it when they were younger because all of their friends from their private school in the nearby city lived in suburbia. They watched shows like “Wonder Years” with resentment. Once they matured, they were most grateful for having had the experience of farm life. They recall with fondness their liberties and responsibilities.
I live in a big city now, and my grandchildren are right here just a few city blocks away. My daughter’s home is behind an office complex that sits on a busy five lane city street, and I worry…like Grandma that the toddler is going to find her way out there. I also try…like Grandmother to make certain I have special treats and activities on hand. We don’t have the luxury of farm life anymore, and it was a luxury, though we did not realize it at the time. We have less than a half-acre with a pool and a shop, and while the pool and shop warrant attention, I am trying to be less like Grandma and more like Grandmother.
We do fun stuff like go to the city parks, theme parks, and beaches whenever we can, but I like to have Mama with me. The six month old is easy. Play with him, carry him around, feed him, diaper him, rock him, put him to sleep, and hope I hear him when he wakes up before he is roaring angry or frightened to tears. The toddler is a different story. While she does well to engage herself with the iPad and TV, she also demands a lot of 1:1 interaction. We make cookies, read books, paint pictures, play games; do sand art and other crafts. We don’t have a hickory switch (or even a mantel), but we have popped her butt a couple of times. Once, when she deliberately stomped my dog’s foot, and again, when she threw a rock at Grandpa’s hard top convertible Mercedes. Mama did not like that we did. She has rules in my house but they are not so very rigid. All I have to do is ask her if she wants her butt popped and she immediately apologizes for whatever she was about to do or did. Her responsibilities at Grandmother’s house include particular little chores that she is praised or rewarded for, and she is eager to commence with them whenever she visits.
As many of you know, my mother died young and I was raised, in part, by my grandparents. I consider my time with my grandchildren a gift. I can only hope and pray that they will look back on their time spent with me fondly. I loved both my grandma and grandmother, and I am sure that they both loved me in their own ways. I know that I love my grandchildren. I want to be a Grandmother to be respected and admired. I am going to stop worrying about it, and just be who I am.