When my children were toddlers. I used to get down to their level and crawl through my apartment to see the world through their eyes. A bit obsessive? Perhaps, but after this little exercise, I was quick to take out the sponge, Comet and Brillo pads. It is amazing what goes unseen in the adult world: grime under the oven door handle, baseboards splattered with dirt, dust balls looming in corners… Suffice it to say, that although I prided myself on keeping a clean, orderly home, I fell short when it was viewed from the level of a toddler.
Walking the walk makes a grandparent keenly aware of the potential dangers lurking throughout the house. There are electrical outlets to be covered, table corners to be cushioned, wires to be tacked down, pantry door handles to be safety-latched, toilets to be closed, windows to be open from the top, and book cases to be checked for their stability should the toddler grab onto a shelf. Childproofing the house requires a discerning eye and an acute ability to foresee possible accidents waiting to happen.
As I write this, a cartoon in the June 25th, 2012 issue of New Yorker Magazine comes to mind where the mother is sitting in a lifeguard’s chair while watching her youngster and a friend wade in a kiddie pool in her backyard. The caption reads, “Your mom is a little overprotective, isn’t she?” Although the cartoon pokes fun at parenting to the extreme, there is no doubt that we grandparents, through years of experience, have developed an acute sense of anticipatory behavior.
Safety doesn’t end with the careful scrutiny of the house. Oh no! Safety is a hands-on experience and requires vigilance when first-born grandchildren are visiting a house that has long been without anyone under the age of twenty-plus. Suddenly, you find yourself seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Ceramic figurines, coasters, magazines, stands loaded with CD cases, and flowers in vases hold immense allure to an infant or toddler who is discovering her/his world.
Eloise is a curious eleven-month old who already seems to have a strong will. Although she is not yet walking, her determination to explore is ever-present. On a recent visit to our house, I hovered over Eloise’s small frame as she knelt, dropped her arms onto a higher level and pulled herself up over a fairly high step leading into the kitchen. Once there, her little body seemed to take on supersonic speed as she jettisoned herself towards her dog’s water bowl. Fortunately, this grammy still has a bit of spark in her step as well and I beat her to her destination, saving her from ingesting her dog’s water and myself from a clean-up job.
Not one to be deterred by a minor setback, Eloise gave me a look of bewilderment then pulled herself down the high step and headed towards the andirons near the fireplace in the living room. Once again, I thwarted her goal (mean grammy). The afternoon continued in that vein, Eloise exploring, grammy keeping a watchful eye. All this was done in between feedings, diaper changes, bottles, and her older sister’s desire for some of her grammy’s attention. There is good reason why children are born to the young!
As grandchildren grow and change so do we as grandparents if we want to continue being the fun people that we imagine ourselves to be. We graduate from Yo Gabba Gabba to Dora the Explorer, from Toy Story to The Sound of Music . We leave the Clifford books on the shelf and read books about dinosaurs and super heroes. We no longer have to lose at play instead we play games requiring advanced thinking skills and a firm set of rules. We refrain from saying that our granddaughter looks beautiful in an outfit and instead say she looks “cool.” In short, we are constantly bouncing off of the vibes given off by our grandchildren and loving every moment that allows us to witness their development. We walk a different walk from the one we walked when they were toddlers; we walk their path and adjust our personalities to keep in sync with their growing needs and interests.
We grandparents realize that all too soon our grandchildren, like their parents before them, will move onto the commitments that accompany growing children. There will be “real school,” with tests to study for and projects requiring time and effort. There will be teams that they will join, requiring practice and weekend games. There will be parties to attend and play-dates with friends. And, as these changes occur in their lives, we will share each achievement in their absence, proudly relating their successes to our friends because that’s what loving grandparents do.
Right now, however, I am relishing each moment that I share with May and Eloise knowing all too well that these are precious times in my and their grampy’s lives. I walk the walk and stand guard over my granddaughters because I know that a safe, happy home in one of the best gifts that I can bestow upon these two little packages filled to the brim with all of the good that life has to offer.