There is something about the first-born grandchild. I could on some level compare it to having my first child. I watched in awe as she discovered the world around her: stretching her neck to see over the bumpers on the sides of the crib, reaching for the wooden balls on the Creative Playthings crib toy that hung across her crib and delighting at the sound that it made when she pulled one of the balls: her G.I. belly crawls, with her head held high like a turtle reaching out from the safety of its shell as she tried to reach her Molly Moo Cow or her Roly Poly Chime Ball that were strategically placed about five feet from where she lay on her stomach. I kept a baby book, wrote down the number of times she moved her bowels, and the number of ounces she drank each day. Was I a neurotic parent? Probably. Aren’t all first time parents a bit neurotic?
I kept the same diligent approach towards my first granddaughter, within reason of course. Whenever I was fortunate enough to be in her presence, I watched with wonder her every move. She was born during the month of March so I was able to see her often during the summer months when my daughter and I, both school teachers, had time to relax together at my home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It was an experience that I documented in my journals and talked incessantly about with my friends and colleagues. If they ever tired of my tales, they were gracious enough to refrain from telling me, allowing me the bragging rights that accompany the new role as grandparent.
Then along came Eloise, beautiful little Eloise with her huge eyes, cheerful nature, and a big, wide ready smile. Now I had two to love, play with and observe. I had gone through the first-time-grandparent indoctrination and, according to my daughter, was doing a fine job of it. Having a second grandchild, and another girl I might add, would be a breeze; or so I thought. There was one factor that I hadn’t put into the equation – my older granddaughter May. How do I share my affections equally and continue to make May feel very special to her grammy?
May was in the habit of having her grammy all to herself. We made a life-size “May doll” out of butcher paper, stuffed with newspaper and decorated with markers, ribbons, wool, and buttons. There were holiday scavenger hunts in the backyard where little surprises were hidden behind bushes and in trees, as well as a self-directed hunt using photos as clues for my little non-reader. We “did gardening” together, with May working by my side as we pulled weeds out by their roots and planted flowers in their place. We went to the playground, visited her favorite ice cream store, looked for sea glass along the shell-covered beaches of Cape Cod, went on nature walks where she learned how to identify ferns, oak trees, black-eyed susans and day lilies. The list was unending. May and I transcended our wide age gap; we were buddies.
When Eloise was just a few months old, a smile, little tickle on the tummy, a rattle, and cloth-covered books for chewing were enough to keep her entertained and, at the same time, enable me to continue giving May all the attention she desired. Sometime during her little life on this earth, Eloise became aware of all of the fun things that her sister was doing and the noise of a rattle, chewing cloth-covered books and having her tummy tickled, although still well received, did not sustain her attention. Eloise watched with a discerning eye and somehow her developing brain registered that there was a world far more extensive and exciting than the one that she was experiencing. Eloise started to creep and make her presence known
I am not going to pretend to be a “Super Grammy,” and state that I am able to equally share my time with both granddaughters when called upon to baby sit. Thankfully, they have a grandfather who can’t get enough of them and willingly participates in any and all activities. However, during the times when I was left to fend for myself, I wondered how I would manage to continue to be a fun grammy to May and involve Eloise in our activities.
The simple solution presented itself when I dug deep into the eaves of my closet and pulled out May’s baby toys, many of which were passed down to May out of kindness by my friends’ children. There was the Laugh and Learn Learning Home (May’s favorite of all favorites), Baby Telephone, Gum Ball Toy, Elephant Pull Toy, and a variety of animal blocks, all nestled together waiting to be returned to the world of children. When May saw her old favorites, she was more than willing to “show” her now creeping sister how to play with them. Through their resurrection, May was able to relive her happy memories of babyhood and at the same time, play the role of “big sister,” by teaching Eloise how to operate the toys while I sat by and watched. When May tired of her former playthings, they continued to hold Eloise’s interests, thus enabling May and I to play a more age-appropriate game nearby. As long as we remained in a shared space, maintaining eye and body contact, with laughter and singing thrown in, everybody was happy.
There is no doubt about it! Entertaining two grandchildren, with a sizable gap in age, three and a half years in this case, requires a willingness to sit, crawl, and lie on the floor. You need to be fast on your feet, have arms that can seemingly stretch beyond human limits, and a reaction time that beats the speed of light. It’s a workout that fills this grammy with enough serotonin to keep me happily energized for many days to follow.