Last Saturday my grandson said “grandma” for the first time. I was eating breakfast on the deck when my daughter opened a kitchen window and my grandson called out: “Grandma!” I have to admit that I was very excited. By the end of the day, “grandpa” had also joined his ever growing list of words: mama, dada, dat (that), two (which means more), dog, duck, banana, turtle, all said emphatically. He is learning to communicate—pointing, nodding yes or no, speaking. He has learned to walk. First he walked like a zombie, hands and arms stretched out in front of him. Now he squares his shoulders and walks with his hands down by his sides. He has his father’s swagger and his grandfather’s smile. He can carry objects and even eat while he walks. He is no longer a baby. He is a tippy toddler.
Watching him, I am reminded of my own daughters: his laugh before he does something he knows he isn’t supposed to do (like climb the stairs), his smile when he sees a dog or cat, his determination as he places blocks into slots, his rapture when I read to him. These moments are also little jogs down memory lane as I remember a daughter doing the same thing. Some things are different. He spends more time pushing cars along the ground and less time trying to fit objects together. He puts the animals in the back of the tractor without worrying if they are in the right slot. Each of the girls would have been more concerned with placement. Is it a boy versus girl difference or a personality difference? My grandson is his own person. He knows how to manipulate the adults in his life—a smile, a tear, a cry. There is delight in watching his personality emerge.
Once I was a young mother. Some days I was overwhelmed; some days I was selfish; some days I had so much joy I could not imagine more. I wasn’t always the best mother but I had the best daughters. They grew into their lives and I am happy for them. When I see traces of the life we had as a family in my daughters’ lives, I know that we did a good job raising our children.
Now I am a grandmother. I get to be the one that bends the rules. And while I am content at this stage of my life, I sometimes find it hard to let go of being the parent. My daughters are adults; they may ask for advice but they do not need constant guidance. They make their own decisions. And isn’t independence what we want for our children? We teach them how to walk, to speak, to be polite, to make decisions and then we hold our breath and let go. We watch them reach milestones in their own lives and remember the steps we took together on that first mile of life. Sometimes those steps were rocky and challenging. Sometimes those steps were smooth and tranquil. Then one day our children travel without us. We adopt dogs to fill the empty space and discover new adventures, but we always have an eye on our children’s paths for the glow of their successes and joys warms our hearts with happiness.