My first grandchild, my granddaughter Isla (pronounced “eye-Luh”…as in Island), turns TWO today. As we prepared to celebrate her little life at a Minnie Mouse themed birthday bash, I got to thinking about the things I would be willing to do for her. I got to thinking about the effect grand-parenting has on those of us who get to walk that path.
For as long as there have been grandparents there have been toddlers giving their parent’s parents unique pet names. Not every grandparent ends up with the title Grandpa or Grandmother. I have a friend whose grandchildren call her “Googs” and another friend whose granddaughter named her “Dit”. Two and a half years ago when my daughter announced her pregnancy, I was consistently asked what name I wanted to be called. Most of the time I answered with a simple shrug. The name didn’t matter, as long as it was ascribed to me by my granddaughter.
About a year ago my husband had to take a job in another state, which meant we had to relocate. Because I tend to feel things deeply and struggle to see promise when I’m fearful, I was devastated. I felt like our relationship with our granddaughter was going to be severely altered. I feared Isla was too little for us to sustain a long distance relationship. At a friend’s suggestion, each time I would talk to my granddaughter on FaceTime, I would read her a book. Her favorite being Grandma & Me. In the flap book, the little girl, whom we affectionately named “Bacon-Head Isla” asks, “Who’s at the door?” and when the reader lifts the flap, “It’s Grandma!” My granddaughter picked up on the clues, and and gave me a name. I became Door.
Fortunately, that passed, and I am no longer Door. A new name came into play and my granddaughter now calls me “Am”. Yep, Am. I am Am.
I have to confess, it’s a little weird to have become a verb. From the moment I was born and the doctor first spanked my pink bottom and declared, “It’s a girl”, I have spent a lifetime being a series of nouns. I have been a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend, a student, a cheerleader, a baseball player, an actress, a girlfriend, a speaker, a waitress, a secretary, a fiance’, a wife, and a mother. Mounds of nouns, and I cannot recall a time in my life when my titled role was a verb.
But, I also cannot remember a time as remarkable as this season called Grand Parenting. It’s widely known by every parent that a grandchild is God’s reward for not murdering their teenager. Seeing your own child become a parent is easily the most fascinating and fulfilling moment in parenting. There is a passing of the baton from one generation to the next. With a wink and a nod, you watch as your child becomes, not the parent you were, but a better version of the parent you wanted to be. In every way we hope that our children will “turn out” better than we do, and when we see it happening it’s invigorating.
Looking into my daughter’s eyes the night her daughter made her entrance into the world was fascinating. It was as if we shared a secret. A secret that could only be understood by she and I, and every other parent in the world. It’s a secret feeling. A new feeling. It’s the “someone just dropped me into an ocean and I’m going to drown in this love” kind of feeling. Knowing your child is engulfed in this new found love is worth every moment of frustration endured with them in adolescence. In that moment, you don’t have to say, “See…” or “I told you so!” because the littlest member of the tribe is saying it to their hearts in a way that is much more powerful.
But that’s just half the story. The other half of the story is the way it changes us. As parents, we already experienced being dropped in the sea of love; as grandparents we experience the ocean differently. When we meet the child of our child we are washed with a wave of love. Each interaction with them brings a new tide, a bigger swell of love. And in a way, becoming a grandparent allots us each the opportunity to become a verb. Not because we weren’t active as parents, trust me–there is no amount of time that will erase my memory of how much work it takes to care for young children. As grandparents we receive the activity differently. Grand-parenting reminds us of the things we loved about parenting, but were often too tired to always enjoy.
Changing a diaper.
Reading a story.
Running a comb through thick hair.
Holding a hand.
Throwing a ball.
Receiving a kiss.
The truth is, for the first time in our lives, we understand how sacrificial love can feel good. Being a Verb Grandparent, it’s suddenly easier to get up, scoot lower, crawl under and carry more–not because our bodies are more fit, but because our hearts are more willing. Being a Verb Grandparent enables us the opportunity to serve with an appreciation for how fleeting the experience will be.
We’ve already lived through the life of a toddler and seen how rapidly they grow and change. We are quick to advise new parents to avoid “blinking” lest they miss an important milestone. In one moment our children were asking for help with turning on the bathroom faucet and in the next moment they are asking if they can go camping in Zion with seven of their friends.
Verb Grandparents have less pressure. As a parent there was a looming fear of failure, but this time around we don’t carry the same burden. Most of us have little fear about making the smallest member of our tribe feel important and special. We can see they are brilliant, and because this isn’t our first trip to Disneyland, we know that as long as they feel loved–everything else will eventually fall into place.