My mom and dad were in town last week for baby girl’s first birthday, which we celebrated with an elegant birthday brunch at home. Being older, Jrue has solid ideas regarding the personalities and nuances of Grandma and PopPop, and Jai’s memory is just now starting to make and store those essential connections.
Promoting a relationship between grandparents and their beloved grandchildren across 600 miles isn’t the easiest enterprise, but they travel to Georgia twice a year, and we pack up and journey with the babies in tow as much as possible. As the kids come of age, I find the instinctual need to encourage and accommodate their special friendship with Grandma and PopPop just as much an intricate condition to their development as daily nourishment. I want to ensure that each visit is physically, emotionally, and spiritually filling so that we all cloak the kids with ever-additional layers of assurance and support.
Jrue is starting to show signs of love towards his grandparents, which we witness in his jubilation when they pull up in our driveway and in his enthusiastically rushed speech pattern. He hurriedly calls their names while demonstrating songs and conversations from daycare. He escorts PopPop on long walks around the neighborhood; by “long walks,” I mean requesting to ride in his red wagon as PopPop pulls. When Grandma asks for him to throw his paper plate into the trash can or to pick up his toys from the floor, Jrue responds an emphatic “Yes, ma’am!” and gets to the task immediately. It’s really cute and sincerely warming.
He doesn’t do those things with me. I get a “different” kind of love, I suppose. I’m a hater.
Jai stares at Grandma and PopPop until comfortable enough to dare a grin. Then she becomes a best friend…a best friend who steals from their plates and sticks her foot in their mouths…a best friend who requires periodic butt changes and occasional bath times.
A best friend like no other.
With several visits under our belts, and the getting-to-know-you phase borderline extinct for both babies, I now see my parents, specifically my mom, as a “Cat in the Hat” of sorts: they swoop in with “whatcha-ma-call-its” and “doo-nads” when the children are uneasy and save the day with fun. When summoned, they arrive quickly by car or plane, always in top elation, ready to play. Grandma herself is full of ideas and can speak in high-pitched rhyme. If she and the children make a mess of the house, she must own some type of techie cleaning gadget because my house is usually pristine when I return.
Here’s the gambit: Grandma always brings along her “Thing One” and “Thing Two..”
…her purse and her wallet.
Those things are usually up to no good.
Dismissing all of my financial misgivings with “Oh, have no fear,” that would make me the fish, Carlos K. Krinklebein. But this isn’t about me.
The purse and the wallet, much like the beloved Thing One and Thing Two characters in the 1957 Dr. Seuss book, are a complication. In the classic story, the Cat in the Hat equipped their mischief by allowing them free rein out of the red, wooden box. Grandma facilitates the same from her “things” because she brings them around the children.
It’s not that her things don’t have the best intentions; in fact, just the opposite exists. They all want to maximize the time for the otherwise bored little children. But, sometimes, the purse and the wallet create monetary bridges that pressure mommy because I see how utterly…happy…the kids become.
The purse and the wallet enable restaurant trips and unscheduled outings, extra gifts and new outfits on top of the groceries she already purchased and the tickets she already retrieved and the mountain of clothing she already bought for the kids. Much like in the book when Thing One and Thing Two got their hands on one of their favorite activities, kite-flying, it doesn’t take much more than the grandchildren’s presence to inspire a high-flying shopping trip or touristy excursion. And the trip can get a bit wild, namely, pricey.
But Grandma in the Hat insists. For now, I acquiesce. Never will I discourage their fun, particularly when it leads to such joyful recollections for them all. At the end of the trip, the grandparents and their grandchildren are spent, but ebullient and preparing for their next visit together.
PopPop mentions new cars for Jrue in future weekends. Grandma mops her weeping with tissues, but is reluctantly led towards the airport security line or out to the car.
And then she’s gone. With a tip of her hat.