Most of the time children are great. Us “adults” try to raise them to be respectful, smart, and somewhat worldly. We teach them limits both to protect them and to give them a target to aim for as they go through life. Along with all the love they can handle, we do our best to bring them up as loving, tolerant human beings.
Tolerant, you reiterate?
Yes – tolerant. Not just patience and composure about the world around them, but for US. For when their parents become grandparents. For it is amazing how many rules and limits go right out of our heads when it comes to our grandkids.
I can remember when my kids (now 28 and 22) were little. Grandma and Grandpa (and even Auntie Sandy) were relentless in their quest to “take the kids off our hands for a while.” The first time around I was hesitant to let my precious boy go – after all, wasn’t I the one who was the center of his world? By the time the second one came around I was more of the “Hey…want the kids?” sort of mom.
I always thought my in-laws out of control. They took my kids to Kiddyland (starting at 1-1/2), bought them TVs for their room (waited until they were two), and fought to take them everywhere. Grandpa taught my kids how to fish at two and how to play pinochle at 8. They spent the hours throwing “trickster” into the fan (their nickname for my youngest, although the trickster in question was a sock monkey). They stayed up too late and were always off on an adventure somewhere. I swore that when I was a grandmother that I would act more civilized.
My only grandson has two sets of grandparents ready, willing and able to take him places and teach him things. Not just your normal things like their numbers or their colors; we are ready to show him what “real” life is all about. I taught him to splash in puddles and take a finger of frosting and draw a line down someone’s cheek. Grandpa has already taken him fishing and we are set to do an Irish Jig at IrishFest this weekend. We throw stones in water and run around in the rain and eat drippy, sticky things.
What happens to us when we get a second chance to be a kid? We are automatically careful not to injure anyone: watching for traffic as we cross the street or not eating plastic or not jumping out of windows are as automatic to us as itching a mosquito bite. But what’s wrong with taking off our shoes and walking through the grass or a mud puddle? What’s wrong with playing catch with the dog with an apple or letting popsicles drool down our chin?
I have noticed that there is a kid inside every one of us wanting to escape. Renaissance faires are prime examples of this. They bring out the strangest costumes, not because the people have a “thing” for Henry the VII gear, but because they get a chance to dress up. I’ve seen pirates, belly dancers, vampires, minstrels, space men – you name it – walking the aisles of turkey legs and amulets. Why do you think they do it? Because it’s FUN. It’s nonsense. It’s the one time they can do something out-of-the-box and get away with it.
Same is true with grandparents. I insisted my kids get to bed at a normal time or ate regular dinner food or stayed out of the rain and snow. Now I can’t wait to make a snowman with my two-year-old GBaby. I can’t wait to look for bugs (ohhh ick) so that he can look at them under a magnifier. I can’t wait to stay up till midnight watching stupid corny movies and have an ice cream sundae for breakfast.
Vitamins and the alphabet and school and keeping clean is their parents’ job. I’ve paid my dues. My tactics, my tolerance, allowed my kids to grow up happy, healthy, and a lot of fun to be with. They roll their eyes as we poke our fingers into the newly-frosted cake; they shake their heads when I let him pull everything out of my purse and drop it on the floor. They dutifully don’t allow him to drink soda, but don’t make a deal out of it if grandma sneaks him a sip or two.
There is nothing better than acting young. It’s too bad a lot of us have to have a grandbaby (or three) to have an excuse to let loose. And it’s too bad we don’t see that there’s nothing wrong with acting like a kid now and then. Perhaps the world would be a happier, more content place if more adults dug holes in the sand and buried a stone or rolled down a grass hill or put our toes in the cold lake water.
And you don’t have to necessarily be a grandparent – how about being an “Auntie Sandy”? Or a crazy, fun “Uncle Bill”? Anyone can jump into the foray. Paint your and your granddaughter’s/niece’s toenails blue or yellow. Buy matching hats and go out for tea (thank you Jane!). You and the little guy play in the worm bucket. Both of you butter your toast with a spoon. Go for a walk through the woods (or a park) and look for fairies or gnomes.
What would it hurt? Your grandkids will see a side of you that other’s often hide. They will see that you are human — that you are alive and fun to be with.
Now, if you all will excuse me, I have green foil shamrocks to sugar glue onto our cheeks before we go dance the jig at IrishFest.