My take after the last 72 hours is different.
I have three granddaughters. Two of them, sisters, live in Brooklyn. The third, an infant, lives in California with her brother. I have spent a number of weekends with the nearby grandbabies, but as pre-toddlers the emotional benefit to the male grandparent has been modest. Indeed, when the nonverbal infant cries, the instinct of the male of the species is to “give them back,” pretty much as soon as possible and to anyone available. But now, dealing with a four-year-old person and a two-year-old pre-person, things are different.
They are loving sisters but have a complicated relationship. In the blink of an eye, a hug will mutate into a suffocating headlock, banned by the NCAA. A salutation can be a snarl. A pinch or slap can come from nowhere as if some random memory of a remote slight has triggered an otherwise inexplicable revenge. Then, in a New York nanosecond, all is forgotten, all is forgiven. When not making a snack, cleaning up, helping to change clothes we, grandparents, serve primarily as referees.
They call me “Ba.” This is the ultimate contraction of Grandpa and it was one of the first words articulated by my first grandchild. Her mother, happy to have another word to claim for her offspring’s vocabulary, encouraged it over my mild protestations and a diminutive was born.
I have warmed up to “Ba.” It is simple. It is efficient. And, when said with emotion and a loud voice, it covers a lot of ground, indiscreetly signaling the presence of a problem without advising the bystanders of any details. “BAAAA!” Think of a Swiss Alps mountain horn.
Alternatively, it has a bleating quality – think of a sheep – that is very endearing when beseeching me for a favor or a treat but will melt my heart in the middle of the night as in “Ba, I feel sick, will you rub my tummy?”
I did not enjoy getting up in the middle of the night as was required by my granddaughter’s recent illness. One career of sleep deprivation was enough. But, I enjoy being needed. I enjoy being loved.
I don’t remember much about middle-of-the-night adventures with my own children. Debbie is generous enough to credit me with my share of mid-night assistance. I have blotted out a lot of parenting memories, but I will long remember some of these recent moments.
I don’t think grandparenting is about “giving them back.” I think it is about giving us a second chance as parents.