Thursday, March 11, 2010

Granny Day -- by Gina

Since she was just three months old and I returned to work part-time, my mother-in-law has been taking care of my daughter Gianna for two full days a week. Gianna lovingly refers to these as “Granny Days”, because the other three weekdays she has “School Days.” I am fortunate to have “Granny,” and the fact that she is home sick today with bronchitis has made me realize how missed she is.

When I say, Granny watches Gianna for two full days… I mean two FULL days. I sometimes get exhausted just listening to the replay of their day. A typical day may include any combination and many times all of the following: doing an art project, playing downstairs in the playroom, playing upstairs in the bedroom, going out for manicures, having lunch in their favorite café or the pizzeria, painting at the pottery place (I now am the proud owner of about twelve assorted handpainted mugs, cups plates, and candy dishes), and going for ice cream. These days alternate or sometimes include visiting the Children’s Museum, Chuck E. Cheese or Barnes & Noble. And that’s just in the winter… once the weather her in New York gets warmer, you can add the beach, park, playground to the list. Whew!

On top of all these great activities, Granny is so caring and patient with Gianna. Last Christmas, Gianna was treated to a hand-crocheted Christmas skirt, with a matching one for her Hello Kitty doll. She got to choose what color yarn she wanted for the skirt, and even what order she wanted the three stripes in…even if it meant Granny pulling out the work she’d already done on the skirt and starting over, just because Gianna wanted the black stripe first, then the red. I told Granny you don’t need to do that, you’re spoiling her.. but I knew my words fell on deaf ears. I got the old line, “I’m her grandmother, it’s my job to spoil her!”

Having grandparents healthy enough and living close enough to be involved in your child’s care is such a blessing. I was not nearly as close with my grandparents. I never met my paternal grandfather, and my paternal grandmother, died when I was very young, about three. I remember her vaguely – pouring water out of my plastic bucket onto her feet at the sprinklers in the Brooklyn playground, her smuggling baby bottles in the bottom of her shopping bags after my mother had already weaned us onto cups. I do remember her always smiling, then remember being told that she was with God and we wouldn’t see her anymore but she could still see us.

My maternal grandmother lived in Long Island - we took the Long Island Railroad out to visit almost every Sunday while we were young, then less as we got older. It was a long trip from Brooklyn, having to first take the subway to downtown Brooklyn, and we always left early, so we would occasionally whine, “do we haaaave to go?” My mother always responded the same way, “It’s your choice… but you don’t know how long Grandma will be around….”

We always had a huge Polish dinner (at 12:00 noon). After which, we usually passed out on the couch, my sister and I both trying to squeeze onto the daybed for a nap with my grandfather. When we surfaced, we might play "Penny Ante" or Rummy card games, or visit my grandfather's "victory garden" at his friend’s house, a short drive away, where we would inevitably get scolded for stomping all over the root vegetables. But then it was back to Brooklyn and maybe we’d be back the next Sunday or the one after. My grandfather died when I was a teenager, leaving my grandmother to downsize and rent an apartment in Brooklyn so she could be close to us. Her health declined rapidly - a heart attack, mini-strokes, and eventually Alzheimer’s led to her needing live-in homecare. Her decline lasted almost ten years, of which there was little “quality time” due to her age and illness. I said goodbye to her through tears over the phone from my boss’ office in Manhattan, when my mother called to say, “It’s finally time - Grandma’s finally ready to go. You better say goodbye now. She may not make it until you get home.”

I missed my grandmother when she was gone, and indeed longed for those Sunday visits I used to complain about. Moms are always right, aren’t they?

When Gianna was younger, I feared Granny was spoiling her too much. M&M's before breakfast, and making a habit of showing up with a box of Dunkin' Donuts in hand. Not to mention jumping up to fix Gianna some instant macaroni and cheese after just preparing a nice family dinner of pasta and meatballs, because Gianna was not happy with our choice of pasta shape. I would say No but Granny would say Yes. Those things burned me inside. I tried to talk with Granny about it, and of course she’d agree to stick to whatever I wanted. But… I have learned, as I imagine most moms do, to pick my battles.

So, now I don’t mind so much anymore when Granny brings Munchkins. In fact, when I lamented how it was hard to get Gianna off her steady carb diet of pastina, spaghetti, and mac n’ cheese, she showed up the next morning with a Ziploc full of hard boiled eggs, which is now a staple of Gianna’s diet – something I never even thought to try.

I want Granny to enjoy her time with Gianna, and vice versa. She is so good to us, and I know it means the world to her to have lots of quality time with Gianna. The years are passing so quickly and Gianna is in Pre-K this September, and then full day kindergarten. Then, this special time is over and on to the next stage. My mother-in-law gives Gianna so much love and attention, and so many wonderful memories. It is a relationship like no other, that of a child and a doting grandparent. Besides, Granny gives her attention which I cannot, due to working full-time. I like to think instead of spoiling her, Granny is showing her that she’s special, and worthy of lots of attention and affection… and perhaps a little good old fashioned “spoiling” now and then, too. Besides, what are Grandmas for?

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