/ˈo͞obər/ (you gotta love that )
· 1. denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing:
"an uberbabe” (I promise this is the example New Oxford American Dictionary used!)
Guilty. That’s the verdict on me - the ubergrandparent (not the babe!). I bet many of you are ubers too! And I don’t mean a taxi service although that may be involved too! At least that is what I’m seeing with my friends. A lot of us waited what seemed like an eternity to be a grandmother and as much as we can’t wait to get that precious bundle of joy into our longingly, empty arms – we are older and “tired-er” and kind of forgot how much darn work those little darlings are.
It’s a busy time for this grandma. We’ve had two girls and a boy born in the last year, two in the last 4 months! To top it off we got a contract on our Florida house which has been sitting idle for the last 18 months, so, at this moment, I’m taking a break from packing one more box of yearbooks to ship to my kids (which they will probably throw away!).
I know my daughters-in-law will read this and what I am about to say, in no way, should reflect my deep and unending love and adoration for your children, my extraordinary grandchildren.
Friends, some of us are doing too much! One of my friends actually moved out of her beautiful penthouse (almost) apartment, into a smaller condo with stairs, when she was waiting for her knee to be replaced(!), so her son and his family could have the bigger place while waiting to go to their next destination for grad school. Her younguns were here for several months and not only did my friend trudge up and down stairs, she babysat a 4-year-old and a baby a good portion of everyday. Yes, we love it – we really do – to a point. Then when we should be saying “we give,” instead we say “what time? ….will you be dropping the kids off tomorrow.” We can’t help ourselves. We really WANT to do it! Maybe our husbands are in the background saying, “Please no, I wanted to play golf today.” Or maybe they are more like my husband who says, “Let us come take care of your toddler while you go somewhere for a few days for your anniversary.”
I’m worried about my daughters-in-law reading this again. Girls, the truth is I don’t do anything I don’t want to do. If I offer, I WANT to do it and it is not your job to protect me – that’s my job. I WANT to know my grandchildren and I want them to know me, so just let me exhaust myself – it’s totally worth it.
Your parents may have been uber grandparents too but I kinda don’t think so. I’m the youngest in my family and my mom never even really liked little ones. Babies were OK if they were sleeping for a few minutes on your shoulder but toddlers – hmmm, they can stay at home with the babysitter. I remember an endless day with then 4-month old John (our oldest) when I went to kill an hour by visiting mama. As new moms have every right to do, I complained a little about the tedium of every day. She said, “can’t you find some program to put him in?” Haha…..not “let me help you out.” I did find a program, at a random church, Mother’s Day Out which consisted of 4 hours, one day a week. It was heaven to go to the grocery store, alone. No offense, John. He knows what I mean because right now he has a 2½ year old and a little one turning ONE today!
Last summer, I came up with this plan to allow our visiting children to sleep in every other day. Jay and I would get up with the kids and watch a few cartoons (sneaking screen time), take them out to breakfast, play with them, every other morning. Our sons and their wives were in heaven – every other morning! But it was killing me because I’m a late night kind of girl and 6 (or earlier) is too close to midnight for me. It would be a lot easier for me, as a grandma, if those babies/toddlers just slept until about 9am. Is that too much to ask?! Of course it is. I just don’t do mornings well. My poor kids never had anything hot for breakfast, unless it was Saturday and their Dad was making his famous pancakes (pro tip: start calling your specialties “grandma’s famous….”). At least they got to decide which of the sugary cereals in the cabinet they would prefer.
Last October, we happily took care of one of our grandchildren, who had just turned 2, while his parents went on an awesome trip (the previously mentioned offer of Jay’s). We were excited and it was really fun. You forget how funny toddlers can be and you want to take a picture of absolutely everything – which you try to do for the first 24 hours. While our charge was at daycare, we got to go into Manhattan and do cool stuff. Our son and his wife came home rejuvenated and grateful for the break they had been given. It was all good. Later the same week, that same son and family came to visit us for Thanksgiving. Again it was all good, until their last day. When I totally hit – the - wall. After so many very early mornings and me pressuring my kids to take time off and leave the little one to me (always MY idea), I crumpled. I got my feelings hurt and proceeded to not get up to say goodbye the next day. So very mature of me. I lay semi-comatose for the next couple of days. My husband was mad I was such a basketcase. He took it upon himself to write all four of our sons (even the one not yet married!) to lay down the law as it were. Although this was totally uncalled for because I brought this on by doing too much (which is my choice), I let him send it because I was too tired to care.
Jay wanted to get this letter out before we came to Florida to spend a month with another of our sons, his wife (on maternity leave) and their two littles ones. The letter had basically said we felt under appreciated and there needed to be some boundaries. The murmurings among our children over this letter were loud enough for me to hear and I felt terrible. I had offered! It wasn’t their fault! I adored taking care of my grandbabies!
Yet, because of that letter, some interesting things have come to the surface that have proved to be critical in establishing a healthy relationship between us and our grown sons and their families. I know some of you grandmas love to cuddle a baby and can do it for hours on end and I do too – if the baby is happy, doesn’t need to be nursed, or is preferably snoring softly while sleeping, snuggled between your big grandma breasts. But let’s face it, that is not usually what a couple hours of babysitting entails. There is usually some crying involved, when the list of things to “try” come into play. I’m pretty good at calming an upset baby – which I am extremely proud of 😊. But here’s the important thing I’ve come to fully understand. I want to take care of my grandchildren as a gift to his or her parents. Don’t get me wrong, I LIKE being with my grandkids but what I LOVE is seeing my child and his spouse get a break, maybe get some time together, or get to go to the grocery store alone. That’s my motivation. This was news to my son (who felt responsible for the letter). He thought that time with the baby was the treat for me. He didn’t know that I wanted to be thanked for giving them free time. It was a revelation.
A side note that I found interesting. With four kids, Christmas has always been a huge deal with an obscene amount of gifts around our tree (embarrassing!). Most of those gifts get shopped for, purchased and individually wrapped by yours truly. I even think gift bags are kind of cheating. For years, I have sat in front of Hallmark Christmas movies, every night from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, wrapping presents! I take pride in using beautiful paper, tying elaborate bows. Yes, wrapping a gift is fun for me – but not 30! Or more! So, this Christmas, for the son not coming to our house, we gave cash. Another son who didn’t come really wanted something to open, so he wanted presents. The last two, at our house, opted for cash as well but here’s the kicker. My youngest said to me: “Mom, when you asked if I wanted cash or presents, I felt bad saying cash because I know how much you like to wrap presents.”
The moral to this story is that we don’t know what each other is thinking. We think we know. We assume we know. But unless we say it in words, we just don’t know. Our son, who took the brunt of all this (for which I am sorry) is my spreadsheet son who said to me, “Ok, how can we make this better?” We came up with a few grandparent rules, the main one and most important one is this: Lala is not to be disturbed until 9 am. She needs her beauty sleep. 😊