Of all the parenting decisions my husband and I have made, (intentional or passive, child-focused or convenience-focused), the decision to live near the majority of our child’s grandparents has been the most meaningful and impactful to him, to us and to his grands. We all benefit from quality time with one another and it’s tough to argue who benefits the most.
One of my favorite things to do is to imagine the world through the eyes of my child. Like most children, Quinn is full of wonder and surprises. His perspective, at the age of 6, is an amusing mixture of purity and wisdom. I’m constantly wondering which aspects of his uniqueness are from nature or from nurture. Which qualities, good or otherwise, are innately part of him and which are the result of exposure?
Recently, Quinn asked my mother if he would ever have a babysitter. We both found this question hilarious because, from his perspective, he’d never been really ‘babysat.’ Of course there have been myriad times when he has been in the care of another adult, but apparently none of those people count as babysitters to him. That is because the 5 people who are among his regular caretakers are also his grandparents. For him, hanging out with his elders is a normal, natural, expected part of life. Being watched over by a stranger would be a novelty.
This is pretty different from my experience because all four of my grandparents passed away before I was born. I remember being jealous of friends who had one or more grands to call their own.
It’s tough to miss something you never had, but I always wondered what it would be like to have known my grandparents as individuals or to have experienced the general feeling of being a grandchild. I felt especially lucky when my mom got remarried to a man with living parents. Even though they lived across the country and I only saw them a few times each year, I finally got to enjoy the benefits of hanging out with sweet, kind, gentle old people with soft hands and big hearts. I only had them for about a decade before they passed away, so they never truly felt like they were my own. But having even borrowed, temporary grandparents felt good to me.
My husband comes from a similar family structure to the one that I came from, with a mom, a dad, and a couple of step parents. Thankfully, all of our parents are living and actively involved in our son’s daily life. Quinn had several opportunities to spend time with his namesake great grandfather before he passed not long ago.
Of all his elders, Quinn has spent the most time with Great Grandma Hallie, or GG, who ‘babysat’ him every weekday for the first 3 years of his life. She is who I give the most credit for my son’s gentle, tender demeanor. Recently Quinn woke me up early on a weekend morning. He quietly entered the room, placed his palm on the center of my back and leaned in with his face close to mine whispering, “Good morning Mom, can you please wake up? I’d like some breakfast.” Even though it was his voice and hand, I heard and felt GG coming through.
Each of Quinn’s grandparents give him unlimited love and attention, but they also give him culture and education in formal and informal ways. GG teaches him appropriate behavioral boundaries in the places they frequent, like churches, banks, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and grocery stores. Grandma Saturday and Papa Frank take him on weekly outings to museums, parks and zoos. Mar-my and Papa Cecil regularly introduce him to the bounties of his extended family in town and all around the country. Papa Charles and MiMi Bonita teach him the joys of vacations and special occasion foods and rituals. Papa Eddie teaches him how to be an adventure-seeker and a fearless, nature-loving boy. In return he gives each of them reasons to smile and laugh and be youthful.
For all these reasons, and a million more, I celebrate Grandparents Day. I am continually grateful for the roles Quinn’s grandparents play in his life and the joy that he is able to give to them. I feel lucky that I have to specific when I tell him ‘we are going to see Grandma today’ because he knows that could mean any one of several people. He understands the different things he can anticipate experiencing with each of them, but he also knows that no matter where we are going, he will have a good time. That is a gift that no money could buy.