Sunday, January 06, 2008

Grandparents: Gotta Love 'Em

The girls and I left Daddy at home last week and went to visit two of their many grandparents. A five-hour drive, two (gasp) Happy Meals, and a shockingly expensive pit stop at Target later, we were there. For the first day, Nirvana. These two have a wonderful, comfortable home; they eat great food and drink fantastic wine, and they love love love the girls. Day two, however, brought back the usual stress I feel when visiting them with my 2- and 3.5-year-old. Despite how happy we all are to see each other, it's a good reminder that their world is not designed around having two small, active, messy, exuberant and not always quiet children, the way mine (sortof) is.

The gooey but crazy-fun toy we brought was relegated to a drawer, the food was strictly to be eaten at the table, and magic markers could not be used except in the basement. None of these requests were unreasonable, really. But I did feel, as I often do there, that Grandpa, at least, still doesn't approve of kids being kids. They are all great and groovy, as long as they don't mess up the house or make too much noise.

Now, I'm the first to realize that loud children are a lot more annoying when they're someone else's than when they're your own. I am probably too immune to some of the girls' more obnoxious behaviors. But even to call those behaviors obnoxious seems to dishonor childhood in some ways. Sure they should have rules and boundaries, but they shouldn't be expected to be miniature adults. They should not draw on furniture or walls of course, but they also shouldn't be made to feel like they've lost Grandpa's favor if they step out of line.

To be fair, Grandma does a great job of gently and sweetly reigning them in, drawing boundaries, and then sticking to them. And Grandpa has come a long way since I was a kid, when I remember feeling, often, that just by being a kid who cried, wanted to talk to him during the game, or might make a mess, I was a nuisance rather than a pleasure. So now, my older sister (who has a 4-year-old boy) and I are working little by little to remind Grandpa that those grandkids he so loves are a package deal: you have to take a little yelling and tantrum behavior to get the snuggles and the sweet interactions and the fun.

I feel like it's my responsibility to speak for my kids when they can't speak for themselves, but I also feel like I'm doing Grandpa a favor too. Because every time he can learn to gently work past a tantrum, or let a mess happen without voicing judgment, or comfort the girls when they're scared or mad at each other, he will be allowing one more great, and fleeting, Grandpa Experience into his life.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Jules Cried Her Eyes Out Tonight

My husband is off at a Beaver footbal game tonight, so I pictured a mellow evening with Josie, age 2, and Julia, 9 months - followed by an early bedtime for them and a couple of hours reading in bed for me. HEAVEN!

All goes well until Julia's bedtime, and she starts screaming her head off. This is not normal for her, but she's had a cold and she's gotten a little clingy and fussy. So, with my "Healthy Sleep Habits" training in mind (and it really does seem to do them good most of the time!) I let her cry. And cry. And cry some more, until I could stand it no longer. I got her out, held her, kissed her all over her sweaty, teary little face and felt like a complete asshole parent. I gave her milk and after a while, put her to bed again. And she starts wailing immediately, not assuaged in the least by my presence, my tummy rubs, my cooing and singing. Though 20 minutes later she was out from sheer exhaustion, as I write this, I can hear the remains of her trauma through the monitor: a sporadic little sobby "hic!" that reminds me, from her sleep, of what I put her through.

And I'm smart, and I can be tough, and I know they get overtired and sometimes need to release that frustration or exhaustion or whatever, but DANG if it doesn't just kill me. My chest hurts, my stomach is tight, and all the wind is out of my sails. It's still amazing to me, the second time around, how much power these little creatures have to make me feel like the archtype of Blissful Mamahood or like the worst mother in the world, whose kids will stop hanging out with her as soon as they are mobile.

It's scary, but also delicious in that it is literally the stuff of life. It doesn't get any more intense than this.

Ok, now I'm exhausted. Good night.