No two kids are alike—and this also applies to Grandmothers.
Though both of my grandmothers passed away several years ago, I was blessed to know them growing up—sort of. Neither one fit the sweet, fun-loving granny mould of the Betty White variety. We didn’t bake cookies together, sew dolls or build forts. My grandmother who “didn’t like girls” never really spoke to my sister or me, but she did let us play down by the railroad and shoot pool in the basement—pretty much anywhere we couldn’t be seen or heard.
I knew my other grandmother a little better. She at least had toys. We colored in half-used coloring books, waged war with army men that belonged to my uncle 40 years prior, and drove Matchbox cars she plucked from yards while on her evening walk—toys that belonged to kids “who didn’t know how to take care of them.”
She spoke to us, but mainly in declarative sentences.
“Don’t bang on the piano keys.”
“Don’t start a new page until you finish coloring that one.”
“Don’t wrestle with the bear rug.”
(Can you imagine having a bear rug and not wrestling with it? Yeah, me neither.)
It was years before I realized that not everyone’s grandmothers were so stoic and stern. I believed they loved me, but for various reasons they felt uncomfortable showing it.
I’ve always wanted more for my daughter.
I wanted Betty White.
Messy, Perfect Love
My mother-in-law drifts asleep while babysitting and lets Ava stay up as late as she wants because “she never says she’s tired.” She lets her eat fudgsicles for breakfast and sneaks her candy when I’m not looking. As a lover of all things sparkly, my mother-in-law has taught Ava to appreciate the value of quality diamonds (I feel for the future spouse, I really do), and as an artist, she not only lets Ava sling paint and color outside the lines, she insists on it. Nothing has to be neat; icing can be unevenly spread, clothes needn’t match and fingernail polish on the skin is not big deal (shudder). She suspends judgment like a belt holds up pants.
“She’s an artist,” my mother-in-law proudly declared when Ava took “mix-and-match prints” to a whole new level.
“She’s a mess,” I said.
My own mother prefers things a bit neater. Coloring happens inside the lines and she has an eraser poised and ready for any defectors. She thinks all other children are damaged and, therefore, unfit as potential friends. But robbed of the experience of playing Barbies with her own daughters, Mom will play far longer than any sane person should. She also makes the mundane tasks of adulthood absolutely magical.
The chore Ava loves most is cleaning the cage of my mother’s ear-piercing lovebird. I would prefer to see it roasted on a plate with a blackberry reduction, but Ava and my mother tend to that downy devil like it’s their job, complete with benefits and a retirement plan.
They painted a fence together without spilling a drop. They made perfectly proportionate paper dolls. If Mom had a bear rug, I’m not sure she would let Ava wrestle it, but she would let her clean it.
My mother-in-law would let her paint it.
To Each Her Own
My daughter did not get Betty White for a grandmother. She did even better. Both of her grandmothers have their respective strengths, and they are united in that they, like my husband and I, think Ava is the best thing since cordless phones. These women give my daughter something I cannot, and something that I did not get from my grandmothers. Watching her talk to them, explore with them, and love them makes my heart fill up—and it also makes me a little envious. Luckily, we want for our children more than we want for ourselves.
I truly believe that my grandmothers gave what they were capable of giving, but it’s a blessing to see Ava’s grandmothers give so much more.Read More From Blogs.
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