Earlier this week, I fixed a new recipe. I don’t cook every night. In fact, I cook less than the average mother likely does. But when I go through the trouble to try something new, I fully expect my family to dive in and enjoy it (whether it is enjoyable or not!)
My youngest son, however, refused to eat my new-found best recipe ever: beef quesadillas. He said he hates beans and went so far as to ask me to amend the whole recipe, just for him. I refused. He ended up eating macaroni and cheese, a banana and a handful of carrots (I did not suggest or prepare this odd concoction, that was all him.)
A day later, my mother made her first pot of chili, which is an Autumn delight in our family. She invited us over for dinner. She had been at my house the day before and witnessed the whole "bean fiasco" with my youngest son. It was actually the furthest thing on my mind until my sweet mother said these words: “Don’t worry, I will pick the beans out of Waylan’s chili.”
My first thought was that she was joking. She assured me she was not. Waylan is her precious boy and she will do anything to accommodate his little nine-year-old culinary preferences. My head nearly exploded! Was this the same woman that made me eat meatloaf, liver—and my fatal enemy—canned corn as a kid? Yes, the very same woman!
I sat many nights at the kitchen table praying that some catastrophic natural disaster would save me from the heavily sugared and buttery canned corn I hated with a passion. I don’t know how many evenings I stuffed the horrid kernels in my cheeks, looking like a human chipmunk, for hours after dinner. The more they dissolved in my mouth, the sicker I felt. It never occurred to me to spit them out—that would be dishonest! And if I was anything, I was honest. So, I simply suffered in silence—mainly because I couldn’t open my mouth for fear that the corn would fall out and I would have to clean it up.
Sure enough, the night of the chili dinner party, my mother offered to make my youngest SpaghettiOs and Vienna sausages, a food delight for a nine-year-old boy. Where were my SpaghettiOs when the corn was served thirty-some years ago? Where were my Vienna sausages when the liver and onions on my plate stared back at me like my worst enemy, taunting me to take a bite?
(Side note: I happen to love liver and onions now, but shhh, don’t tell my mother! Actually, she already knows. And she prides herself on making all things possible.)
After this evening, I heavily contemplated the differences between mothers and grandmothers. Fathers and grandfathers. Parents and grandparents. I have the joyful blessing of being a mother to two sons; Liam, 12, and Waylan, 9. I was the only daughter to my parents. Looking back, I see so many changes in the way they raised me and the way they dote on my two children.
And I must say, they were born to rock at being the best grandparents ever.
It is uncanny, really. I take great delight in knowing my kids are righteously spoiled by their grandparents. After all, isn’t that the job of a good grandparent? To spoil the grandkids and then send them back home to mom and dad for the less desirable portions of parenting?
My grandparents did the exact same for me. They truly made me feel like the most special princess in the whole entire universe. When I would stay with them for a week every summer, they would indulge my somewhat picky appetite with frozen Red Baron Pizza, ice cream after every meal, and the most delicious substance we did not have at my own home…yogurt!
My grandparents even let me sample their strong-as-jet-fuel black coffee, adding a bit of milk so as not to overpower my little girl self. My parents, who were not coffee drinkers at all, didn’t seem to mind. They just shook their heads at all the indulgences and thought about how they were going to "un-grandparent me" after the week of bliss I experienced every summer as a child.
While some of my parents' gestures toward their grandsons have me overtly shaking my head or possibly even shouting… 'Really?!’, I am eternally grateful they have finally earned their beloved badge of Grammy and Pops. My mother talks a big game, saying she is a "mean grammy" that threatens those boys within an inch of their lives. However, when the boys are asked how they view their Grammy, it is all smiles, laughing eye-creases and fun stories of the magic they get up to when forced to spend time together.
My dad, a quiet man who prefers to spend time outdoors tweaking his garden or puttering in his many sheds of unending treasures, enjoys nothing more than to work side-by-side with my sons. Whether it be picking produce in the garden, mowing the field on the tractor, or fishing at their pond in the field, Dad is in his height of glory having two young, willing boys to do "man stuff" with.
As much as he loves his only daughter, I wasn’t exactly a tomboy growing up. I was fired from flashlight duty at a young age because I was easily distracted and always had to go to the bathroom. I ruined a hunting trip once because I tried to free the young quail he was using to train his young bird dog. I ruined his pure-bred bird dogs from hunting because I made them into family pets.
Trust me, my dad has waited a long time to finally have a willing audience with interest and joy at his many man hobbies. And it is one of my greatest joys watching my favorite men bond over things I will never quite understand.
While there are times I shake my head at my parents' bizarre treatment of my children, the overwhelming majority of the time, I shake my head with a half-smile and wipe my eyes to try and hold the tears from flowing down my cheeks. The joy I feel knowing my two sons are being undeniably spoiled with love, food, gifts, candy—and everything else good this world has to offer—is one of such completeness and gratitude. It is difficult to put into words.
Every child deserves an older family member or friend—whether it be a grandparent, great-aunt, uncle or neighbor that takes a special interest in them—that lets them be exactly who they are. Children need to be spoiled. They need to feel secure and loved beyond all measures.
Grandparents have definitely earned the right to revel in the best parts of parenthood, reserving some of the most difficult parts for those trying children they paid their penance to years ago.
Someday I hope to hold my son’s babies in my arms and glory in the many ways I will spoil them with my own grandparent love. After all, I am learning from the absolute best—my very own parents. Grammy and Pops.
No training necessary, they earned this role after years of patiently waiting (and likely wondering if it would ever happen). And I must say, they were born to rock at being the best grandparents ever.
Just ask my two sons.