My four-woman book club was at my house the other night, and I’m so glad because it’s only when company comes that I look at our ratty salsa-stained napkins and think, “I really should buy new ones,” and then of course it’s just a baby step to buying a new tablecloth because you simply cannot put old napkins on a new tablecloth and naturally then you need new coasters because the old ones just will not do and before you know it you’re lugging two big bags out of Target and thinking, “But I just went in for some new napkins” — which, we all know, is Target’s Master Plan to Take Over the World. Or, at least, to make a dent in my bank account. I was practicing what to tell my husband (the on-the-defensive offense of “How can you ask me if I just bought these? I’ll have you know I take our household budget very seriously and I can’t believe you think I’d just go out and buy some new things. And furthermore …” was a possibility) but so far he hasn’t noticed, so I figure I’m safe. Or maybe I should just come out and tell him. Sort of like the other morning when I was at Older Daughter’s house with 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable while she and my son-in-law were out. I was puttering and didn’t notice that the Captain had gleefully unrolled a whole roll of paper towels in the hallway to “make a sled.” Yikes. I knew this contravened a Mommy rule and I wasn’t anxious to have another — another! — black mark on my grandmotherly babysitting record. “Uh-oh,” I said, as unsuccessfully tried to re-roll, “what happened here?” With that innocent look of “What? Who? Me?” that’s perfected so early, the Captain shrugged and said with no irony whatsoever, “The paper towels got long, Kacky.” Brilliant! Genius! Our ticket to redemption! It wasn’t a lie because that’s exactly what happened. “Right!” I said. “That’s what we’ll tell Mommy when she asks what happened.” We practiced a couple of times and I thought all was well, until Mommy came home and the Captain forgot his lines at the crucial moment: “I’m sorry, Mommy. When Kacky wasn’t looking, I took the paper towels and rolled them out in the hall.” Ouch — a double whammy of confession and implication. But it wasn’t so bad, since both the Captain and I escaped with only a stern warning look. And of course we talked later about the importance of always telling Mommy and Daddy the truth — and leaving Kacky out of it.
Oh my cookies. I cannot believe it’s been a whole week since I’ve had the chance to sit down at my laptop to
blissfully and abundantly waste time write thoughtful and meaningful blog posts. But when I tell you what I’ve been doing instead, you’ll understand: Being a full-time grandma. Yes! Our 3-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable, stayed with us for several days while his mommy and daddy (Older Daughter and our son-in-law) did a major kitchen renovation and baby-nursery redo (in preparation for the Captain’s baby brother, who’s planning a mid-November arrival). And you know that I absolutely and positively adore being with the Captain 24/7 and if it weren’t for pesky obstacles such as having to work a little bit to make some money and wanting to spend more time with my husband than a quick bleary-eyed good-night kiss, I’d do it more often. At least, I think I would. This visit was actually the Captain’s longest here at our house by himself, and I did learn a few lessons.
A) You know how everybody says, “Aw, you don’t look like a grandma!” when you meet people in your normal life and they learn you have grandchildren? That’s because in your normal life you’re able to spend an hour on your hair and makeup in your by-now-perfected daily age-defying routine and spend the next hour in your closet choosing a coolly chic not-too-young but not-too-old outfit that hides and smooths and camouflages and flatters. When you actually are on grandmother duty, nobody says that. But it’s not your fault — it simply is because you have no time. No. Time. No makeup. No hair styling. No color coordination. You’re lucky if you can swipe on some deodorant, zip up the jeans you’ve worn for five days and find a T-shirt without chocolate-milk stains. Young-mom grunge is cute when you’re a 26 and look adorable in a pony-tail. Thirty years later? Not so much.
B) Stock up on whatever your pain-reliever of choice is — and I’m talking aspirin or acetaminophen or whatever here. No matter how fit you are, no matter how much you work out, no matter how many mountains you’ve climbed or marathons you’ve run, nothing compares to spending 24/7 in grandchildren-land. Especially if your grandchildren’s parents encourage those wonderful modern concepts such as Using Imaginations, Turning Off the Electronic Devices and Learning by Doing. The days of spending summer vacation parked in front of the TV are gone. Children today Get Out and Engage in Active Playtime. The result? A well-rounded and happily grounded child. And a sore and exhausted grandparent.
C) Remember the Mommy Network? No, not a Facebook group. I’m talking about when you yourself were a young mom and everywhere you went you just sort of naturally gravitated toward other young moms in similar circumstances. Well, the same thing is true three decades later: Grandmothers intuitively identify each other and quickly band together to
commiserate, complain and plan a margarita night intelligently discuss child-rearing issues of the 21st century. And of course there’s bragging. It’s a given that grandparents can brag on their grandchildren, who, naturally, are the brightest, smartest, funniest, strongest, kindest, most talented and most creative kids in the whole world. Every single one of them. Learn to listen politely and smile courteously as others share their stories since, obviously, they’re just filling time with their averageness until it’s your turn to dazzle with exceptionality.
D) And, finally, when the visit’s over and your household routine’s returned to normal and the cats have come out of hiding and you’ve cleaned cookie handprints off walls and roller-skate marks off floors and gotten all the chocolate-milk gunk out of the shot glasses, take a deep breath and enjoy a minute of well-earned quiet. Because even as you’re enjoying the chance to sip a glass of wine and read something that’s not Dr. Seuss, you can’t wait to do it all again.
To all parents who look at their teenagers — those strange alien creatures who know everything and about everything and believe you know nothing about anything — and cannot imagine them as coherent and responsible adults, I promise there’s hope. For instance, let’s say you have a teenage daughter who sports purple hair and multiple piercings (when she can get away with it) and has the annoying habit of seeing how far she can stretch
your patience parental boundaries. I just happened to randomly pick this example, by the way. Nothing to do with any real person at all. Not at all. Anyway, if you’re in this situation, do not despair. It will seem as if one day your teenager incurs multiple weekends of enforced home time due to multiple infractions of parental rules (“No. 3. Being home by curfew means all parts of your body are inside the house and the door is closed. It does not mean you’re in the same general zip code.”) and the next day she’s a wife and a mom and a Martha Stewart devotee who gets her whole family involved in making batches of lovely and delicious peach jam. Promise.
These are my children — my two daughters. They are beautiful young women, inside and out. How I came to be so lucky as to be their mom, I have no idea. But I’m glad it turned out that way. Younger Daughter, on the left, recently celebrated her 24th birthday by getting a new job and heading out of town to follow her dream of becoming a sign-language interpreter. She’s moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to live with my brother & his family while she looks for an apartment, wows ’em at her new job and figures the school thing out. I’m in awe of her adventurous spirit and boundless enthusiasm. I’m also in awe of Older Daughter, on the right. This week she’s fighting a nasty sinus infection, teaching her dance classes and keeping up — as always — with our grandson, 2 1/2-year-old Capt. Adorable, and still had time to teach me the secrets of hula-hooping (shift your weight side-to-side and keep your upper body stable). This photo is so them, too. When they were little, I used timeout to get their attention, but it was a different timeout for each of them. I sent one daughter to her room with her door closed because, as a definite people person, she considered being deprived of other people to be a dire and serious punishment. I insisted the other daughter serve her timeout right beside me at all times because she’d be perfectly happy all by herself in her room and so being forced to be with people was a major infringement. I think this photo shows exactly which daughter is which!
In our house, we are Band Geeks. Both my two daughters were Band Geeks in high school, my younger daughter was a Band Geek in college and I was a supportive Band-Geek Parent for years. But you know you can hang up your “I’m a Proud Band Mom!” T-shirt and throw out recycle your calling lists but you can never entirely lose the Band Geekiness. It’s there, just waiting for a chance to resurface and turn you into someone who gives up free weekends for band competitions and says things such as, “I think I’ve got a spare vibraphone string in my purse.” It happened to me. It could happen to you. Read more at my weekly newspaper column, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100326/ARTICLES/3265000.
And while you’re clicking, check out Gwyneth Paltrow’s Part II of her trip to Nashville, Tennessee, at http://goop.com/newsletter/75/en/. GOOP is her newsletter/Web site and she usually writes from the I’m-a-famous-and-rich-movie-star-and-you’re-not-you-poor-things perspective. However, I was impressed with her Nashville Part I — she recommended several affordable and authentic Nashville spots for eating and drinking, whatever your beverage of choice. Part II looks at shopping and family activities and I’m on less solid ground here for seconding her suggestions. Except for Hatch Show Print, I’ve never been to any of the retailers she likes. But that’s not surprising since the clearance rack at Belk’s is about as upscale as I get. Her choices for family fun, though — the Cheekwood Botanical Garden, the Frist art museum and the Adventure Science Center — get my vote, too.