Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Note from Julie

The box of grandma’s homemade chocolate-chip cookies arrived just before our son’s kindergarten debut. My mom’s attached note recalled her experiences with me when I started school:
“I never knew, from day to day, if you’d come home quiet and tired (a milk, cookie, nap day) or exuberant (a milk, cookie, chat day) or stressed and pressured (a milk, cookie, lap day) – but milk and cookies are always good,” she wrote. “Now it’s his turn, and I’m sure he will love school as much as you did – and I hope you will enjoy it all over again, with him.”
Indeed kindergarten and grandma’s cookies have been popular in our household. What’s amazing though is how one day you are waving goodbye to the yellow bus carrying your child off to school, and the next day, you are mailing cookies and encouraging your grandchildren as they walk up the steps towards eventual independence.
Grandparents hold an evolving role in today’s families. Distance proves challenging for many families, but camera phones, video recorders and even the U.S. Post Office can bring grandparents closer despite the miles.
Thankfully, close proximity was our lot growing up. We grandkids soon realized how each set of grandparents offered us a different kind of love.
Our younger grandparents visited often and took us places – air shows, the State Fair, the birthplace of Herbert Hoover …? The older set preferred to visit quietly and play dominoes or board games. From each household we learned how people live their lives differently, not right or wrong, just differently.
Of course some grandparents wait a lifetime for their grandchildren, pestering their offspring to reproduce so they can enjoy the baby smells and smiles (without the sleep deprivation and toilet training responsibilities).
Others fall into their role more unexpectedly, stepping up to provide childcare, financial assistance or even a place to stay for a new family requiring extra resources.
Some veteran grandparents swoop in and provide essential assistance. My mom came and helped us out for a week after the birth of both of our children, cooking meals, doing laundry and rocking the baby. I’m not sure who cried harder when she left – me, my husband who loved her cooking or the squalling child.
Relationships are rarely without challenges though, and occasionally even a grandma needs a nudge, as a friend of mine discovered with her husband’s parents.
“I took the first step and called,” she remembers. “When she is with my kids, she does things with them. They go to the park; they play; they do crafts together. But once we are gone, she doesn’t call. So I call them.”
That’s not such an issue in our family. Our kindergartener plays a mean game of shuffleboard with my husband’s father who turns 86 this year, while his sister enjoys the sweet treats grandma hands her on the sly.
Meanwhile, my younger parents provide additional hands-on activities – dismantling things to put them back together again or baking and icing sugar cookies. They have more patience for the time-consuming tasks I usually shun as too complicated or messy to embark upon.
But the best part for kids everywhere is that grandparents aren’t constrained by the structure and rules we parents have to live by. They show their love just by being there, whether they are in the stands, on the phone or sending smiles over the Internet.
And the endless supply of candy in their pockets doesn’t hurt either.

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