I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Lots of people told me how wonderful it was to become a grandparent, and how much I was going to enjoy this new addition to our family. They told me exactly how I would fall in love, instantly and completely, the first time I saw the baby, and what a huge change he would make in my life. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t quite believe them, because so often in my life, the reality doesn’t live up to the hype. I tend to set the bar really high when I hear such glowing reports, and I’m almost always disappointed by what I actually experience. So I took all those predictions about how awesome it was to be a grandparent with a grain of salt.
Luckily, I’ve reached the stage in life when I no longer have trouble admitting that I am, every now and then, absolutely wrong. Because I was wrong about this grandparent stuff: it’s just as wonderful as I was told. If anything, it’s even better.
The best part of being a grandparent isn’t having a cute little baby to hold, cuddle and rock to sleep. It’s not the wonder of seeing my daughter and son-in-law in a whole new role as loving parents. It’s not even feeling my heart melt every time my grandson smiles at me. Of course I love all of that, but the absolute best part of becoming a grandparent is the chance to do things over, and better, than I did with my own children.
I had my children when I was still young, struggling to find some sort of writing career, and far too worried about what other people thought of me. (And believe me, when you’re a mother, everyone has an opinion of just exactly how you’re supposed to be raising your children. Which they will share with you.) At some level, I actually believed that when my children misbehaved or weren’t entirely happy at all times, that had to mean that I was doing something wrong as a mother. One way or another, I spent way too much time “sweating the small stuff.”
But my children aren’t the only people who have been growing up in the past three decades. I’ve matured as well, and now have more patience with myself and more tolerance for others. I no longer care very much about what others think of me, and I have a much better understanding of what is, and isn’t, worth worrying about. All of which means that when I look at my grandson, I just see a little person to love and accept for exactly who he is, without all the worry and angst about “doing things right.”
Obviously, it’s not my responsibility to raise my grandson, and I know that his own parents will do a fine job with that. But even so, whenever I interact with him, I can’t help but notice how much calmer and confident I am compared to how I felt when my own children were small, and how much easier I find it to settle down and simply enjoy holding a baby that I love so deeply.
Life is a journey that can teach us many things if we’re willing to learn. And if we’re lucky, every once in a while something (or someone) comes along to let us know that we’re moving in the right direction.