Becoming a grandmother has taught me some interesting lessons, not only about kids, but also about life.
1. The oldest and simplest entertainments are still the best. My 4-year-old granddaughter is here for the weekend. She brought along her own little tablet computer, a model made by Nickelodeon Jr. It has a host of video games gauged to preschoolers, a library of children’s music, and even its own digital camera. What’s more, she can operate it like a pro.
But what has she spent the weekend doing? Playing tag and hide-and-seek; playing dress-up in my clothes; coloring and drawing; blowing bubbles with dish soap; and jumping in and out of a huge cardboard box while pretending it’s everything from a pirate ship to the fish that swallowed Jonah.
Expensive electronic toys take a back seat when she can coax Grandpa to give her a piggyback ride or “help” Grandma bake cookies.
And the life lesson here? It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, or how inexpensive that entertainment may be, the important thing is who you’re doing it with and the relationship formed in the process.
2. Time with people we love, especially adult time willingly devoted to a child, is the only time that’s never wasted. When Grandpa pretends to be asleep just so he can grab her as she tiptoes past him and then blow raspberries on her tummy, they both make a memory that will last a lifetime.
When Gram (that’s me) reads her a bedtime story and the next time she visits she chooses that same story every night, it’s her way of saying, “I’ll remember this forever” and “I love you, Gram.”
The life lesson here is to value people over progress, pleasure, and personal convenience. Grandpa was trying to watch the television news when she wanted that piggyback ride. Gram was really tired of the same story every night. But Alex needed us to say yes to her desires. She’ll soon go home, and it’s important that sweet memories go with her.
3. Parenting has changed since we raised our three kids. Alex is a very lively and intelligent child, and my daughter Erin is infinitely patient and creative with her, in play and in discipline. The two of them are real friends. Alex still tests the limits, as every child does, but she recognizes that her mother is the final authority and she knows when no means no.
If there is a life lesson here, it is that every generation has a different set of challenges in growing up and in parenting the next generation. We all need to give them space to do it their way. Plus we need to compliment and encourage them in the process.
4. It is almost impossible to write a coherent sentence, let alone a whole column, when the world’s cutest 4-year-old is standing next to you asking, “What ya doin’ Gram?”
“I’m writing my column.”
“What’s a column?”
“Well, it’s something that will be printed in the newspaper.”
“So people all over town can read it.”
Then she grabs my reading glasses, perches them on her little turned up nose and says, “Look, Gram. I’m a teacher. Let’s play school.”
So, pardon me, but now I am the child and she is the teacher. I’ve been told to be quiet so she can give me some homework. And in a whisper I’ve been told to “be naughty” so she can put me in time out.
As you can see, all this is much more important than any old column.