When your kids have kids there’s a creed you repeat devoutly every time you talk to someone whose kids have kids: Grandchildren – there’s nothing like them.
Before I had grandchildren, I’d heard people say things like: Grandchildren are my greatest hello and my hardest goodbye.
Or: If I’d known how great grandchildren are, I would have had them first.
The comment that perplexed me most was: The love you have for your children won’t prepare you for how much you’ll love your grandchildren.
I was sure that I would love my grandchildren, if I ever had them, but the idea that I would love my grandchildren more than my daughter was inconceivable.
I love my daughter so much. It’s not just that she’s perfect. She’s perfect in ways that I could never imagine.
I had always wanted to have a child and when she happened, it was the most moving and profound experience of my life.
I was there when she was born. She came out blue. I’d read lots about birthing and I knew that often babies are blue right after birth. But she was so blue, I could tell even the midwife was a bit concerned.
When she began to cry shortly after, it was the most exhilarating feeling. And immediately she began to turn rosy and tan.
She was so tiny and so furious. As she raged, she was transforming from a water breathing being to an air breathing baby. I never actually really realized that. Intellectually, I knew it, but I hadn’t wrapped my mind around how profound that transition is.
She was so angry. Although my daughter has her moments when frustration casts a shade over her normal sunny, patient disposition, these moments are about as frequent as an eclipse.
That was the last we saw that severe anger. And right after being born she settled into being an angel.
She rarely cried unless she wanted something and usually what she wanted was completely reasonable. She would cry if she was hungry or if she wanted to be changed.
And as soon as you fed her or changed her diaper, she smiled and went back to her full-time job of being wonderful.
Her childhood was pretty much like that. She was the ultimate low-maintenance child.
Her only real fault was not claiming her farts. Even if there were just the two of you, almost as soon as she was 3-years-old, if she had gas, she would ask, “Who tooted?”
It drove her older sisters mad. “There’s only two of us and I know it wasn’t me,” they’d yell. But she was not intimidated and never took responsibility.
If it is true that every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings, it is also true that every time an angel farts, an older sister loses her cool.
But in her first few moments outside the womb, she was furious. And the madder she got, the pinker and healthier she looked.
I have never taken so much pleasure in someone else’s naked fury.
The instant I first saw my granddaughter and two years later my grandson I was overcome by the same emotional tsunami.
At first, I wondered how I could have the same profound and consuming love for someone else besides my daughter, but now I’ve realized that it is all the love folded back onto itself.
When we look at our grandchildren, we see them and we see our children in them.
Like many of us, for the last nine months, I’ve had to feel the love socially distanced.
There was that brief reprieve during the summer of our semi-reconnect when we went for several hikes, still masked and at a couple of arms’ lengths – no hugging. When they got tired or just wanted to be carried, it had to be my daughter who bore the load.
I’ve tried to take succor and inspiration in photos, videos and saving all the cute, wonderful, funny things they say and do.
The first hike we went on during the hiatus of hunkering down was a day of romping filled with the profound silliness of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. After the hike, before heading our separate ways, we stopped to get ice cream.
The youngest had not been into a store since March because wearing a mask is something that most just won’t do at that age. But he masked up this day without hesitation. He wore it wore into the small country store with a reputation as a creemee nirvana without complaint.
Priorities, I suppose.
He was so grown-up as he ordered chocolate in a cone with sprinkles and stayed masked for the transaction. I was the last to order.
As I was served and got ready to settle up, came his cry of desperation, “Mommy, I can’t eat it!” This was a serious situation. Luckily my daughter immediately recognized the need for quick, critical action.
“You pay and I’ll get them out of here,” she said as she hustled both kids outside.
In the parking lot we sat on the curb, laughed and laughed, adding another chapter to the oral history of our family’s ice cream legacy.
Since then, my daughter reports he periodically asks for “Ice Cream Sprinkles Granddad.” It’s a title I proudly embrace.
When his sister was 2 and his own birth was just days away, his sister asked, as she did with the frequency of a tolling clock, when the baby was going to get here.
My daughter told her it would be in just a few days and I asked her what she was going to do when the new baby arrived.
My granddaughter replied, “Going to teach baby.”
So, I asked what she was going to teach the new baby.
She thought for a half a second and then said, “Going to teach baby ice cream.”
For the time being I have to find happiness in ice cream memories.