Friday, February 3, 2012

Guest post: On Being Grandpa Nick

The cutest grandchildren Grandpa Nick has

Some things I figured out during January with Asher and Benjamin.

1. All grandparents are correct - their grandchildren are the most beautiful, energetic, smart and charming creatures on earth. The parents will back them up on that.

2. I can help parents, family and friends maintain the foundation of love and reliability supporting the two boys. That becomes the bedrock of their security and self-confidence as they face a sometimes-harsh world. Last week Rebecca and Benjamin slept at our house. Rebecca and Eric left Asher with a sitter, came here with Benjamin, put him to bed, calmed him and then went out for dinner. Rebecca later returned to our house to sleep. Of course Benjamin woke up crying shortly after his parents left.

I went upstairs, picked him up, held him and sang the family good night song until he calmed down. Then said, "It's time to go back to sleep in the Pack-and-Play." He understood me and loosened his grip. As soon as he was down he started to cry again. I leaned over and patted him on the back until he calmed and started to sleep. Then I stood up. Within seconds he started to wake. I patted him more softly. As I stood watch, ready to calm him again, memories returned of the times when I was about four and would wake up in terror. I would run to my parents in the living room, they would calm me and then return me back to bed. I was helping Benjamin feel safe at our house while passing along the love and security my parents gave me.

I realized I was trapped when Benjamin finally fell asleep. The hall light was on and would likely wake him if I opened the bedroom door while leaving. I took out my phone and texted Alison for help. No response. Friends had come for dinner with us, I texted the husband. A bit later the voices downstairs changed, then my wife appeared at the door. Once she turned off the hall light I made my escape. I then learned that Alison hadn't heard the text arrive on her phone, my friend was being polite and assiduously ignoring his phone, and my wife only came upstairs to verify whether I had fallen asleep in the room with Benjamin.

3. Being there is its own reward. Benjamin & Asher are comfortable with me. I can exercise my grade-school humor with them - funny faces, physical jokes... They grow and change from week to week. 

Now they practice their own humor on me. Last week Asher started unbuttoning my shirt while I was undressing him for the bath. They read books differently - Benjamin spots his favorite letters, they can make many of the animal sounds... They play differently - much more direct imitation of their parents. They both use their tools to "fix" the toy vacuum - Benjamin started, Asher soon imitated. 

Daddy Eric reading to his sons
There's nothing sweeter than snuggling a just-washed boy in a towel before putting lotion on him, then his diaper and pajamas. Even that changes. Last year, we had to help their hands through the sleeve. Now they can push their hands through and know which foot goes on which side of the pajamas. Last year they were wriggling to escape the changing table. This year the thrill is switching the table lamp on & off. Asher's even tall enough to do it while standing on the floor.

4. Grandparents have license to indulge the grandchildren. I often wear my "Grandpa Nick" sweater/jacket when I'm with the boys. It features a big zipper down the front plus a zip-up pocket on each side. Last Fall their big thrill was operating the big zipper. Now Asher's learned that, if he unzips the pocket and checks he'll find a roll of Life Savers, and get one as a treat. Benjamin comes by to claim his Life Saver after his brother's done the heavy zipping.

The Life Savers have special meaning in our family. When Rebecca and her sister were young we once had to spend several hours waiting for a wedding to begin. walking around the block, with each daughter receiving a new Life Saver for each circuit, while waiting for a wedding to begin. My wife remembered how her Father always had root beer drops in his pocket, ensuring she would run to him as soon as he came home.

February just started, but I've already learned that sometimes the best thing a grandparent can do is free up the parents by spending quality time with the grandchildren in the next room. I don't know what I'll learn next, but class will be in session soon with Asher, Benjamin and their parents so close.

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