I never thought I would say this and mean it. The question of the day is: “Where are my grandchildren?”
This is what happens when your younger sister is eagerly awaiting the birth of her second grandchild. The longing is exacerbated by the stories of your friends’ grandchildren (especially at Christmas). The photos are to die for. But last week I was thrown completely over by a short visit from a tiny person.
E. is the first-born of one of my office girls, and at two years old is already charming. She’d brought him over for the small, informal office Christmas celebration. While I like both of them—I’ve known her forever and she used to babysit my kids back in the day—I never paid much attention to little E. before. E.’s wonderment at office operations was silly. We gave him a keyboard to pound on while his mother completed a few tasks. He’s obviously taking after his father, a computer programer. E. tolerated of a room full of virtual strangers by being cute. I remembered a few tricks that worked on my kids, and tried them out on him with amazing success. After an hour or so of interaction, I was smitten.
In that moment, I understood why my mother-in-law doted on my kids, her only grandchildren. True, children are cool, especially when they are your own. Especially when they are small, cute, cuddly. Open to the world. When you are my age, you want to enjoy little humans, not worry and stress over them. You do not want to have cynical conversations with your offspring, nor do you enjoy biting your tongue in an effort to prevent World War III.
I never knew my Japanese grandmother, but my father’s mother was a fabulous grandmother, full of embarrassingly salty talk and stories about the bad old days. She would mail a few $20 bills to me while I lived in St. Paul and urged me to come for a visit, and I did, even when the drifts in northern Minnesota went way over the highway signs.
If grandparenthood were an age-related condition, I would be prime for it. I’m way old enough. There were people at my 20th high school reunion with grandchildren, and that was 17 years ago. (You do the math, I’m tired.) While they were whipping out wallet-sized photos of pink babies, I was living large. Back then, I wasn’t looking to get married again, much less start a family.
I’m the perennial late starter. My first kiss coincided with getting my driver’s license. I didn’t date, drink, or smoke until my peers had paved the way. I didn’t have children until my thirties. I didn’t want them any earlier—God forbid had that happened. I could barely deal with pets back then. Heck, I didn’t want grandchildren until last week, much as I have teased my son about it. I kept telling myself, “I am too young for grandchildren,” and thought I was right. In a way, I am. Both my kids are in their early 20s; one is still in college. Neither has a steady job. They are too young to have children.
My son and daughter-in-law don’t want to raise any children in the U.S. The schools are, for the most part, a failure, and core values are secular. My daughter is just starting her journey into her 20s. If my experiences are an indication, it’s going to be a long, rocking, wild time before she settles down.
So I resign myself to the occasional grandmotherly twinges.
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