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May 14, 2008

On Being a "Fake" Grandmother

Rick_twin That' s my husband with a very young friend of ours on a weekend at the beach.  Neither of our boys is married yet; one is engaged.  We're in no hurry - they should run their lives in the rhythm and timing that suits them.  They live across the country from us, and that's hard.  We miss them and they miss us;  we're the ones who moved back east and "left" them; there was no way not to.  Life can do that.  They both went to college out there - and work in the computer business -- so it's natural that they've settled in there.

An amazing thing has happened though.  In our community, there are lots of young families.  Many of them have parents as far away as we are from our kids, so we have the blessing and honor of being "fake" grandparents.  Never when the family comes to town - we're careful to stay out of the way then unless absolutely invited -- but the rest of the time we enjoy the company of some lovely children.

You've heard the saying "being a grandparent is so great because you can enjoy the kids and then give them back!"  I remember when our kids were little I was appalled at this idea; who would want to give away one minute of kid time?  Of course, I worked full-time so every minute really was a treasure for me - but now, my own kids raised and grown, I understand the idea better.  Basically, raising kids is exhausting.  There's a reason why it's easier to get pregnant when you're younger.  It's not just physical, either.  Patience, forbearance, flexibility - these are often easier for younger people.

At the same time, when one of our friends calls and asks me, since I work in a home office, to come over and fill the gap between parents leaving for work and the arrival of the sitter, I love it.  When a daddy suggests that if his 3-year-old daughter tells me a story, "Maybe Cindy will put it on her blog" - and she does, and I do - it's a gas.  When we go to dinner at their houses and get dragged into the basement playroom or go upstairs at bedtime to read a story, I feel uniquely privileged. 

Once, I picked one of the kids up at nursery school when his mother was sick.  As I walked into the room, he jumped up from "circle time" on the floor and ran around the room yelling "Cindy's here, Cindy's here!"  If there is a better feeling than that, I don't know what it is.  (Maybe when it's your own grandchildren...but still it's just so lovely.)

It makes me sad to realize that it's unlikely I'll have this sort of relationship with our own kids' children when they arrive.  We'll always be reintroducing ourselves as we parachute into their lives and hoping they won't pull back from us for too long.  I know we'll be better grandparents from all the practice we've had at not interfering, keeping our mouths shut unless asked for advice (at least twice) and working to offer help when appropriate and stay out of the way when not.

For now though, the value isn't just, or even mostly, in what we're learning for the future.  It's the joy of sharing love of a child with her parents; of being trusted by both parents and children to be there when there's a glitch, to be invited to come along to the farmer's market or the beach and, mostly, to be allowed to love these lovely small people and their warm, loving, very generous parents.

Original 50-Something Moms Blog Post

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