A heap of squeals erupts from the back seat of my Dad’s old Mazda SUV as we dance around the sharp corners, zigzagging our way up the Sonoma coast.
Hailing from a family the size of a small army, I was excited for Violet and me to have exclusive bonding time with my Dad, her feisty and adventurous Grandpa.
“She doesn’t like me yet.”
“I think she is intimidated by your facial hair and loud voice, Dad. You gotta smile more and talk in high pitches. Basically, act like a woman.”
My Dad gives me the side-eye and chuckles heartily as he meanders another coastal hairpin turn. Hundreds of feet below us, the Pacific Ocean shimmers and sparkles like my Grandma’s favorite Sunday morning brooch.
Besides learning to love Grandpa’s big scratchy beard or learning how mommy once started a toothpaste stand to raise ice cream money, grandmothers and grandfathers play an extremely important role in their grandkids lives.
What can children receive from healthy relationships with grandparents?
Someone who gives unconditional love
A mentor who can help with problems
Companionship and someone to talk to
Someone who will stand beside them
A peek into their mommy or daddy’s childhood
A sense of adventure
Kindness, humor, and patience
A zest for life
(Excerpt from The Today Parenting Team)
Some of the best memories I have of my childhood were the times I spent licking cookie-dough covered whisks with my Grandma Carol and sitting on my Grandpa Tom’s lap eating penny candies. During my teenage years, it was looking through my Grandma Bea’s old yearbooks admiring the vintage dresses and her and me jumping off rope-swings. She and I even got tattoos together, despite the disapproving glares from my parents. To say I had awesome grandmas and grandpas is an understatement.
If you are lucky, your children’s grandparents live nearby, are good role models, and play an active role in the lives of your children.
Violet and Chris’ Grandma Clara, my mother-in-law, lives ten minutes away. She sees Violet and Chris several times a week. While most of the time she just drops by, I go out of my way to include her in things because I believe it is extremely important for my children to know their Grandma how I knew mine. Like many Grandmas, she offers them lots of snuggles, sugary treats, and bucket-loads of toys. The grandkids keep her young and healthy too. It’s a win-win!
Sadly, all of my family is on the west coast. But, my Dad and step-mom Janis never let distance come in between their grandkids.
Every few months, Chris and Violet’s Papa and Grandma come to play and party with the kiddos. They talk regularly with the grandkids on Marco Polo video-chat and fly out for special occasions, like baptisms and birthdays. Chris was lucky to spend two weeks this past summer in California hanging in the mountains with Papa learning how to shoot, drive four-wheelers, and other fun “boy stuff.”
When Papa worked, Chris spent time helping Grandma Janis set-up tables, chairs, and wedding decor for her event planning business. Whereas she paid Chris with dollars, my Grandmothers paid me and my siblings with homemade jams, fig cookies, and pickled green beans. Oh, how times have changed.
Although my real mom, Debbie, has yet to meet Chris and Violet (her daily life could easily fill a 12-hour time slot on Dr. Phil), Violet and Chris are lucky to have other amazing grandparents, including honorary neighborhood Grandmas, who love to smother them in love, homemade sweets, and fun times away from Mom and Dad’s watchful eye.
Violet crawls around the tiled floor trying to find her pink-suited baby doll. She looks over at me as if to say, mommy, help me! I throw my hands in the air as if I don’t know where it is.
“Go ask Grandpa.”
She looks around the room, then starts to waddle her pampered tushy towards where my Dad is sitting on the couch.
She pulls herself up at the table, where Grandpa and I are in a heated game of Labyrinth. Mommy is losing for the first time in years.
Still missing her doll, Violet snags her teething biscuit from the floor instead and glances at Grandpa smiling.
“Look, Dad, she’s smiling at you because you’re smiling at her,” I laugh as I glance over at my Dad.
“She likes me now. All it took was a smile and a damn biscuit.”