This is reprinted for Connor and Cheyenne, Susan and Brent, and for baby Mason, the newest addition to the clan.
February is the month for stories of the heart. If you’ve ever set sail on the ship of love, you’ll recall the intensity, the pain and the wonder of it all. Yet ask any new parent about first holding their newborn, and they will tell you of a connection so deep, it makes everything else pale in comparison. And so nature planned it.
Why else would we willingly deprive ourselves of free time for the next decade, face an avalanche of poopy diapers, or walk the floor at 3 in the morning while singing old Barry Manilow tunes, which is the only thing your tired brain can produce and which strangely enough seems to help. This is truly God and biology at work. It amazes me even now how those tiny dictators have us hopping to attention, all the while keeping a firm grip on our hearts.
And how does this explain that other love story; the grandparent? Just when the kids have left home, the dog has gone to doggy heaven, and retirement looms like a sweet promise on the horizon, along comes the first grandchild. Even if a parent is unprepared, and the grandparents are in shock, still, a new chapter in the book of love is written. And this one is a blockbuster. Plans fly out the window in the face of this new being. Grandparents are as helpless as parents in resisting this tiny force of nature. I hear grandparents say all the time, “You enjoy them, and then you send them home.”
But they don’t! The grandparents that I know, including my own parents and in-laws, give up many weekends to care for their grandchildren, and most seem happy to do it. It’s like an angel appeared with a trumpet and shouted, “Let the endless giving of time, love, and energy begin again!” But that’s not how it feels, because love never drains your batteries. It charges you up instead.
I remember when our oldest was a year old, and she threw up in the middle of the night. I immediately called my parents, who came running over (though my mother is a nurse and should have known better.) We all watched over Hilary like she was a time bomb ready to go off, and when she simply fell asleep on the living room floor, we all breathed a sigh of relief. “That was a close one.” No, it really wasn’t. And of course, it happened time and again, though we all learned to panic less often. The love was there, always, and the time given, with my mother taking turns walking the floor with her 16 grandchildren, and even traveling with my sister to conferences, walking around cities wearing her grandsons in the babyTrekker. When I was feeling overwhelmed, my parents and in-laws would come over and hold my babies while I did housework.
Love signs us up; we have no choice in the matter. So this February, which many consider the month of love, I salute and give thanks for grandparents, who give their hearts over and over again, along with their time, energy, and money passed under the table to grandchildren.