I’m a fortunate grandmother; my two grandsons live nearby and I see them regularly, even during this year of COVID. The younger one, David Parks is almost 6 months old and is a beautiful baby with a smile that could warm the coldest heart. He studies your face as you hold him close and his eyes light up when you echo his coos and imitate his first vocalizations; What a delight he is.
The older grandson, Baker is two and a half and is a ball of energy bopping from one thing to the next, taking in all of life–and having dings on his face to prove it! I’ve been keeping him two days a week since he was five months old, so now he’s very comfortable being with “Grammy”. With grandchildren there’s time to really observe them and explore their world unlike when your children were that age and you were just trying to survive: earning a living, maintaining a household, fulfilling your extended family and community responsibilities.
Baker has taught me a lot about how I should live as an adult. He’s learned early to reinforce his steps toward achieving a goal. Whether it’s putting a puzzle together or getting closer in the quest to be potty trained, he has learned to congratulate himself, saying, “I did a really good job!” How many times do I stop to congratulate my small steps forward? Most of the time, I’m too stingy with personal praise and too hurried to notice those incremental achievements that lead to obtaining the goal.
But Baker reminds me. The other day when I rolled out the gingerbread men and placed them on the cookie sheet, he told me, “You did a really good job, Grammy.”
His reminder helps when I’m tired or after he’s had a ‘spell’ of being fully two!
I love the way he’s learning to use language and to see the not so subtle difference that word choice can make. He used to say, “I want candy,” but now he says, “I need candy.” Sometimes I think it would be better if I’d just go ahead and admit that I really need something–it’s not just a passing want that can be overlooked.
Sometimes the way he uses words makes me laugh, and that is always good. He loves music and we often play songs that we can dance to–since I’m teaching him the Texas 2-Step and the rest of the time we just move to the music. He likes the country song by Jason Aldean, “Night Train.” The video shows a train traveling at sunset and he can hear the boxcars clacking over the tracks. He likes to run in a circle from my kitchen to living room and wants me to chase him. Instead of saying, “Grammy, run after me,” he says, “Grammy, run away with me!” I get so tickled by the image of a grandson running away and asking his Grandmother to go with him!
Baker knows a lot of the words to “Night Train” and I’ve decided not to explain the line, “Got a blanket and a fifth of comfort.” We also like to dance to Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” and I won’t be explaining, “I caught a trucker out of Philly had a nice long toke”–but he sure can sing it! If it ever needs an explanation, I’ll count on his daddy, Brooks to take care of it!
During this Christmas season, I’ve had our nativity figures where Baker could play with them. We bought the set when Brooks was little in an unbreakable material. Now, Baker comes in and plays pretend with Mary and Joseph and the animals. He burps the Baby Jesus and then hands him to me to burp him some more. He’s seen that many times with his little brother. I’ve told him the story of how Aunt Polly painted the picture of Mary and Joseph that’s hanging on my dining area wall.
“Where’s the baby Jesus?” he asked, not seeing him in the painting.
“Mary’s pregnant with him like your Mommy was with Parks. Baby Jesus hasn’t come out yet,” I responded, trying to remind him of how he used to say, “Come out, David Parks!”
When we talk about the donkey Mary’s riding, Baker says, “I want an orange donkey.”
I tell him how much his Great Great Aunt Polly would have loved him, and can imagine her playing with him as she did with Brooks. It’s something to think that I had a close relationship with Polly, who was born in 1915, and now I’m connecting her to Baker, who was born in 2018. I never imagined I would feel this common link between two family members born a century apart. I’m blessed by this realization that feels like a powerful bond.
Baker loves his family and that includes his Uncle Ross. Baker just calls him “Uncle”. Last Saturday I had Uncle come over to help make a gingerbread house. It was so tender to see his attachment to Ross. After they finished the gingerbread house, they sat on the floor in the playroom and Baker showed Uncle his cars and rocks. He would stop and go over to Ross and say, “Give me a hug, Uncle.”
I think we all need hugs now, after the year we’ve had. When we can, why not just ask for them?
I started a new tradition with Baker this year that I have a feeling we’ll carry forward. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve let him open a present each time he comes to Grammy’s on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s kind of like opening windows of an Advent Calendar, watching the presents disappear and knowing Santa, and the Baby Jesus, will come after all the presents are gone. Baker makes the transition more quickly from his daddy dropping him off to going inside to start his day with Grammy, because he’s eager to open a gift.
I explained to him that he’d pick one present each time, but you can guess his response.
“I want all of them,” he told me.
Eventually, with repetition, he understands and has been satisfied to open just one present. Whether it was the green car or the purple car or the dinosaur puzzle, he’s been happy with his present and carried it around much of the day; he receives joy from small things.
The joy of small things is something I need to remember all year long. To be present and grateful and to carry those small but significant gifts with me through each day will bring joy.
During this holiday season, it’s my wish for you that you allow yourself to see through the eyes of a child. To feel the wonder and the joy of all that is provided, and to say, “I want all of it.”
This is the final week of my Memoir Giveaway. I will choose one person (in the contiguous US) to receive a signed copy of, He Heard My Voice. To enter please answer the following question and send your response to my writer’s email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you look at your life through a child’s eyes, what new possibilities do you see? What have you been hesitant to ask for that now you can say boldly you want?