Grandchildren seem more able to accept age limitations than adult children.
I’m older than a lot of grandparents and have made an astonishing discovery. Very small children pick up on the limitations and possibilities of the adults in their lives. Tiny tots learn to ‘read’ these adult VIPs very early and discern how that person can provide for their needs and wants. Grandparents are no exception.
I have sometimes felt that my grandkids were missing out because I’m not one of those young grandparents who can run down the road with them, play catch or baseball or get down on the floor and race cars. Rather, my relationship with all my grandchildren is based on what is possible.
The teenage grandchildren quite often have breakfast with me at a favourite restaurant and we share our secrets. They have learned to trust me, comfortable in the knowledge that what happens with Gammy, stays with Gammy. I look forward to these times and they tell me that they do, too.
The youngest grandchild, who is five, knows that I’m the go-to person to play Xs and Os, solve jigsaw puzzles, draw pictures and share occasional treats. He knows not to ask me to do something that I would find physically challenging. I was having a bad time with my knees a few weeks ago. As we approached some stairs, he slipped his hand in mine and said, “Gammy, just hold my hand. I can help!”
How could this small child be more tuned in to my limitations than my adult children?
I think I’ve finally figured it out. It’s because adults understand aging and, ultimately, death. Small kids, however, just understand the here and now.
My grown-up kids refuse to acknowledge aging, mine in particular. They treat me as if I were a 50-year-old and seem to get irritated when I don’t act that age. They don’t want to hear my complaints of being tired, out of breath, having an aching back or unable to cope with steep stairs. I understand. If we all pretend I’m much younger than I am, I’ll likely stick around for awhile. That bit of make-believe that we share delivers a comfort zone for all of us. So, with them, I push myself a little, walk a little faster, take on extra chores and just try a little harder to be 50 again!
With my five-year-old grandson, there are none of those future predictors. There is just now. So we have our own comfort zone. Gammy is available to clap when he sings a new song. Ready to pick up pencil and paper and have a drawing contest. Count together to see who can count the highest. Look for the last pieces of the puzzle.
No need for apologies, and no expectations, because he’s the only one who accepts the truth that this particular Gammy has limitations. It’s okay with him and it’s okay with me.
Published in May, 2011.