Is it Fair to Love your First Grandchild Most?
Time with you, Grandma.
Yesterday I had our three grandchildren over for the afternoon. Ellie is 5, Jesse is 4 and Kalisi is 20 months. After a fun few hours together, I prepared to drive them home. That was okay with Jesse -- and the baby was easy-going -- but Ellie became teary-eyed. She said she wanted to spend more time with me.
An hour later, after taking Jesse and the baby home, Ellie and I sat on the couch again together. I asked her what she would like to do. She said, "I never usually get any time with you, Grandma, just you and me."
I had been feeling the same way the past couple of months. I didn't want to hurt my grandson's feelings and say, "Just Ellie is coming over today." The dynamics are completely different when a rambunctious little brother is there with his sister. There is competition, there are jokes to be told and there are beds to try jumping on. I love my grandson. He's one of a kind. And, of course, when the baby is here, she is a magnet for my attention. But there is something about one's first-born grandchild; an extra strong bond that is difficult to describe.
I was thinking about this bond this morning when into my mind came a memory of when we moved here to Maui in 2006. Our daughter and husband and children moved here at the same time, to live separately but close by. Ellie was almost two years old when we all made the move.
If you have ever moved to another state and planned on taking along your dog or cat or bird,you probably were successful in doing it. You probably loaded up your moving truck, put your pet in the car and caravanned across the state border to your new house. It's not that easy if you are moving to Hawaii. Hawaii has the toughest laws for bringing in animals. There is, however, an approved method by which you can avoid the four-month quarantine of your animal, and its expenses, if you plan ahead by at least four months prior to your move. If you are bringing a dog to Hawaii, for example, there are a series of shots and signatures required from your mainland veterinarian with specific intervals between each immunization. If you miss it by a day, you're out of luck. Well, my planning was not on target when we moved here from Arizona or I didn't believe I could juggle the time constraints of the vet visits and everything else. We had to make a week-long trip to Canada at one point, too. So I decided I had to find a good home for my little Shadow, a red Pomeranian.
I made the wrong decision. I regret that decision.
Life has to go on. So we had been here about a week when one day I was driving a rental car -- our vehicles took awhile to arrive -- and Ellie was in a car seat in the back. I started to quietly cry as I was driving along and then I heard little Ellie. "Grandma, cry?"
I looked at her in the rear view mirror. She looked so perplexed. My tears fell a little harder while I pulled to the side of the road. I turned around in my seat and said to her, "Remember Shadow? Ellie, do you remember Shadow?" I knew she did. She used to throw the ball for Shadow in our house in Arizona and squeal with delight while tugging to get the ball out of Shadow's mouth again.
I said, "Shadow isn't with us, Ellie. I miss her. But she has a new house in Arizona. Shadow's okay. She's okay."
Tears welled up in Ellie's eyes and she said, "Grandma miss Shadow?"
I was amazed that she picked up on the key feeling, the real concept. She had only just turned two that week.
I said, "Yes, I miss her. I miss Shadow."
Ellie patted her chest and said, "Aewwee miss Shadow." (She couldn't pronounce her name very well.) She missed Shadow. Tears fell down her cheeks. She had a release from feelings she could not express until that moment.
I got out of the car, opened the back door and gave her a big hug. I told her again that Shadow will be okay.
During the next couple of weeks, when Ellie and I were together she would sometimes bring up Shadow's name and lean on me for a hug.
These are the kinds of moments a grandparent has with one's first-born grandchild. There is a sense of discovery for the grandparent in one's own grand-parenting journey.
I have had special moments with each of my grandchildren at different times, but the fact is that Ellie has a two-year head start at pulling on my heartstrings. Still, no one can make me laugh as much as Jesse. He says the funniest things without trying. And Baby Girl, she's just plain adorable.
I think of the story of Jacob in the Old Testament. He gave his youngest son, Joseph, a coat of many colors. Jacob favored his youngest son. That caused all kinds of problems among the older brothers. I tend to wonder about that.
Being a grandparent is not something that necessarily comes naturally. It's not all fun and games. Sometimes there is lack of sleep and worry. Sometimes there might be hardship and even heartbreak. But through it all, I want to try to give each grandchild an equal amount of love, support, attention and everything else they need. I'm beginning to see that sometimes what one child needs is not anything like what another grandchild needs from me. I never had these thoughts and self-directed dilemmas with my own children. While we are navigating parenthood, we are in the thick of things. But in grand-parenthood, we are like the sailor who climbs to the top of the ship's mast to see what is on the horizon -- whether it be danger or adventure. We can glimpse the broader expanse of vision than the parents down in the galley where they are doing their very important work of parenting.
A Balancing Act
Sometimes I have so much fun with my grandchildren that I forget my physical age. And sometimes I believe I don't have any limitations on my physical abilities -- except those that I've put there. Then I wake up the next morning with a big reminder: a locked-up back. I have to stay agile because the children and I want to take tap dance lessons together, so we can tap and sing our way through the Annie song: The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow. Our plans even for today require agility. We will be down at the beach park where the biggest log doubles as our pirate ship. Jesse is our captain. I cannot miss the excursion. And then there are our quiet times when the children tell their sweetest stories, sit still for a lesson and prepare for their tea party.
It's a bit of a balancing act. I hope I can give the right amount of whatever is needed, whenever it's needed -- to each of my grandchildren -- throughout the months and years ahead. I don't want one of them to ever feel they are less loved than the other. Ellie did have a head start but the gap will get narrower as the younger children take up more of my time and Ellie is at school. And silly me. I had thought when my children grew up and left home, I was done! My work was finished. But here I am just getting my sea-legs for this whole new adventure called grandparenting. I'm in it for the entire voyage, so I need to get it right from the very beginning.
I thank you for dropping by and I welcome any comments and insights you might have.
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© 2010 Pamela Dapples