My late mother-in-law proclaimed, many times, that being a grandmother was the best role she ever had. It didn’t take me very long, once I stepped into that role myself, to agree with her.
It may surprise y’all to learn that, as a parent, I was a world class smart-ass. I was! I didn’t consciously become one, either. I think “smart-ass” was my default personality mode when the stress of life—that special combination of children, job, husband, and financial challenges—combined together and got to be too much.
Some of my zingers caused a great deal of eye-rolling and moaning among my kids, but I have to tell you, looking back at those comments even now, I chuckle. I realize that some of my responses weren’t my own originally crafted words. They’re just the words that emerged from my mouth when the moment was right.
There are a couple of instances and exchanges that particularly come to mind:
Kid: But you SAID I could have that! Me: I most certainly did not. Kid: YES YOU DID!! Me: (sighing). I know you believe you understand what you think I said; but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. Kid: I don’t get it. Me: Precisely.
Then, of course, there’s the universal-kid response when you are trying very hard to get them to comply with your parental will:
Kid: You can’t make me, because this country is a free country. We live in a democracy! Me: This country might be a democracy, but this family isn’t. It’s a benevolent dictatorship. However, if you don’t toe the line and do as you’re told, the dictatorship isn’t going to be so benevolent.
Of course, inevitably, came the time when out of my mouth, despite all my previous vows that it would never happen, came my mother’s words:
Kid: But why do I have to do it? Me: Why should I keep a dog and bark myself?
Then there was my middle child, who thought he was equal to his father and me—and he actually stuck to that tenet from the time he was about twelve, for the remainder of his life
I explained to him, gently, that he wasn’t our equal, and never would be. I would never be an equal to my parents, and he would never be an equal to his. That didn’t work. So then I tried another way, and this one I’m pretty sure is original. I told him that the world was comprised of us versus them—and that he was a them, not an us. This was a constant back and forth between us during most of his teen years. And then he became a father, himself. That was a humbling time for him, and I know that at the bottom of everything he loved his children with all his heart.
One day, he came over to visit and he grinned and grinned, because, he asserted, he’d finally figured out that, being a father he was finally an “us”.
I grinned right back and told him, that no, he was not an us. He was still a them. He was always going to be a them as far as we were concerned. But that baby of his? That baby was definitely an us.
Grandparents and grandchildren are natural allies against a common adversary, after all. I think it’s an immutable law of nature. And being a grandparent is…well, pretty grand. And because the law of sowing and reaping is another immutable law of nature, we parents are given great rewards when we become grandparents.
Number one kid as parent: Mom, you wouldn’t believe it! First this kid did that, and then that kid did this. I tell you, I have the children from hell!
Me: Oh, don’t be silly, sweetheart. You couldn’t possibly have the children from hell. I had the children from hell!
Then, another time:
Number one kid as parent: Mom, you wouldn’t believe it! I was in a hurry, picking up my spare pieces of lumber from the kitchen floor after making that repair—and I nearly threw my back out when one piece wouldn’t budge. He’d nailed that piece of scrap wood to the kitchen floor!
Me: Oh, dear, sweetheart, that’s horrible. Horrible! Your father and I never had that problem. You must be doing something wrong. (A special note here. Number one kid is also a world-class smart ass. He just rolled his eyes and laughed.)
Yes, being a grandparent is grand indeed. I’ve been a great-grandparent now for three years, but that role isn’t as hands-on fun as the simple grandparent role. In fact, I’m almost certain I have the progression of roles finally figured out.
We are an us, our kids are a them, their kids are an us…and yep, our kids’ grand-kids are definitely a them.
At least they are to us.