Wasn’t it yesterday that we kvelled at becoming first time parents? Each child was a blessing and a joy with new love to share, to guide and mentor, to experience life through the eyes of our offspring’s. We read all the books, we took advice, we even did it our own way while still making the mistakes we vowed not to do like our parents did. But like a kitchen-sink soup, they all came out okay, some better or worse than others, but ready to serve the world in their own way, whether we liked their choices or not.
We were given 18 (chai=life) years to mold, instill, teach and then they packed their bags and our job was done. So goes the cycle-of-life.
Though, I do believe strongly, “Once a parent, ALWAYS a parent!” The protection and nurturing never seizes. But we take on a different role, almost as a peer, so instead of “I’m telling you to blah, blah, blah!” if you’re smart your verbiage will change to, “I suggest you blah, blah, blah!” Gets you further, you’re not seen as a nag/kvetch, and eventually, they share this great idea that you know was YOUR suggestion! But let them think it was theirs! Just compliment them with, “What a great idea you have!”
And somehow we did adjust to a quieter and cleaner house, doing less laundry, shopping for and cooking less food. We were startled at the extra time we had to do whatever it is we wanted, go places that had been put on the back burner while often facing a spouse/partner with a look of, “Who are you?” “Since when don’t you like onions?” or as a single parent and having no one to ask those questions of “Who have I become?” “What should I do today?”
Time and choices became a gift we forgot about. We suddenly had a certain amount of freedom to soar like a fresh-out-of-college person and reinvent ourselves for the next chapter in our getting-older-life. Retirement, travel, hobbies, new activities and friendships filled our dance card and we surprisingly had to fit in Sunday afternoons and dinner dates with our adult children. Often they became annoyed with us for not having time for them! What goes around comes around!
And then the world changed in ways one never expects. People often made comments about it but it never registered until you see that hour-old punim starring back at you or a tiny hand grabs your finger and you suddenly see the world in an entirely new light as the third generation is born. Grandchildren. What a concept. We knew, if we were blessed, it would happen someday. But when that day comes and you embrace that new person, your life changes forever, in ways you never knew possible. And differently than when our own kids were born.
For the longest time, I asked myself WHY is this child, my grandson, so different than my two daughters and son? I love them all. I wish the best life ever for all of them. Something in my heart pulled my emotions to different places that I could not find for this child. I craved smelling his sweet baby smells, watching him smile and laugh every time I held him. I have a picture of the two of us when he was only three months old and we were both looking into the camera cracking up! What was he laughing about? Why did I pop into see him without calling while saying, “I was just in the neighborhood!” when I knew no one in their neighborhood and his parents knew that!
And then one day, Mother Nature (All powerful/nurturing) gave me the answer: The Andreas Fault that runs through California decided to shake, raddle and role and woke me up to the fragility of life with a magnitude on the Richter scale that startles you out of your fog to be aware of the vulnerability we live in. An earthquake.
After the 1989 earthquake in the Bay Area that had me 30 miles from home and took me six hours to get across a bridge, through World Series traffic and in sheer panic to get to my kids, 11 years later took me racing to my grandson’s crib side because I remembered a shelf above his crib filled with tchotchkes. Once I saw he was okay, I went home, heavy hearted about caring day in and day out another 18 years for another child.
And then it hit me: My love for this child was an unfounded fear of not being able to protect him every minute of every day. I knew his parents would BUT I wanted to! I loved him so much that I wanted to keep him from danger, harm and all the boogie men in the closet! But I couldn’t because he was my GRANDchild, not my child to care for day in and day out. And I had to find a way to reconcile and live with that.
I also realized that as a parent, while raising our kids we are busy with life: Working, caring for our home with everyday chores, shopping and cooking, managing everyone’s schedules, carpooling, maybe a night out with friends. All these things take up the WORRY time that grandparents have less of. So we just might worry more about our grandkids. And it goes without saying, we live in a different world today.
I know the words that you can play with your grandkids and then let the parents do the dirty work! For half my childhood my grandmother raised me and my brothers so I saw a different role model for grandparenting. It took me time to teach myself to be the grandparent, always available when needed, but be the grandparent. And as life has it’s twists and turns, my grandson and his mom did live with me for several years as his dad was away training to become a police officer. So I had my special time with my first born grandchild.
And then BINGO over the next few years, three granddaughters arrive! More love to give, more family memories to make, more Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and graduations! My photo album is full!
But now to GROUND HOG DAY/EMPTY NESTER ONCE AGAIN:
The two older kids, 22 and 19 are continuing college in Oregon. My daughter, their mom, moved there also (saves out-of-state tuition by living there!).
The other two, 18 and 16 are leaving in a few days! One off to college in Wisconsin and the other to Israel for school!
I will have no grandchildren in my neighborhood!
I am an Empty Nester Once Again! Ground Hog Day all over again!
Where have the years gone? They were just babies!
The realization that our grandkids are spreading their wings and living their independent lives is that it hits us that we are older, lots older, and at the opposite end of where they are at. As Baby Boomers, we still consider ourselves those 18 year old years who were going to change the world! And now we pass that hope onto them.
Again, time for reconciling my role (goody bags are already to be mailed!) but maybe with a few trips ahead to visit four wonderful young adults in their new neighborhoods!
“May the Lord bless and keep you, Jacob, Shayna, Ari and Kami. May His face shine upon you and be gracious and give you peace. Blessings on your journey, bless you in your new homes and travels. May you be surrounded with Joy and Beauty, Adventure and Wonder, Hope and Love. Let Torah and Mitzvot guide your steps. I pray for G-d’s goodness to rain down upon you all the days of your lives.”….My Love Always…Butzee
As a Baby Boomer Bubbe who still feels 18 but has four grand kids to prove this is the 21 Century, Sandra writes to leave a legacy for the next generations. Her belief that these precious kids need to know their cultural and family’s past in order for them to live their future is all the muse she needs!
She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Cross Cultural studies, has written a family history, personal memoir and is completing her first novel.
Her grandmother’s journey to America and life is her source for her deep belief and love for Judaism.