This eagerness for family to care for my daughter became quite the asset when she came down with a cold on Saturday. She spent most of Sunday sniffling and dribbling snot over herself, sleeping little and obviously irritated with her sudden inability to breathe through her nose. My first experience of helplessness at my child’s illness was significantly reduced in anxiety by the presence of grandparents and a very dedicated aunt who took turns rocking my girl as she fussed and tried to sleep. Her Auntie K even stayed up to 1:30 in the morning trying to lull her to sleep.
It makes me remember when I was a child how much I loved visiting my own grandparents. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do; my mother’s parents are both dead and my father’s parents are significantly advanced in age and hampered in meaningful social interaction. But as a child, I loved all four of them. They, too, showered me with the same love and attention I now see our parents give my little girl, and I can now imagine the joy they felt in caring for me. I wasn’t the first grandchild for my mom’s parents, but I was for my dad’s, and I think even now I can feel that imprint from them. My little girl is doubly blessed, since she’s the first grandchild for both families. That isn’t at all to suggest that our parents won’t have endless stores of love for any more grandchildren – the thing about being a grandparent, I think, is that love really is completely endless and unconditional.
I suppose there is something fulfilling about seeing your child become a parent. Maybe there’s a full-circle kind of quality to it, a sort of “mission accomplished” feeling that comes with seeing your own children fully grown and experiencing one of the most significant responsibilities of adult life, much like watching a grown child get married or buy a house or start their first job. But there’s a kind of participatory joy involved that doesn’t come with other developmental milestones in the life of a grown child. For one thing, there’s an adorable baby to play with! But I sense also a satisfaction from our parents that we, too, now know the rich pleasures and fears of parenthood. It’s as if they’ve waited thirty years for us to learn a special language, and now that we can communicate with them in the language of parents, they have only good blessings to say to us.
The enthusiastic devotion of new grandparents is a tried-and-true meme that no one misses an opportunity to quote. However, witnessing it firsthand is pretty powerful. There’s no doubt that my little girl is showered with love from her mother and father, but to see the effortless affection her grandparents rain down on her is inspiring. I’m sure that each one of them would indeed affirm this as effortless, perhaps even surprised by my admiration of them for such a thing. But I can say this with all sincerity and wonder: grandparents are f***ing awesome.