When my kids were small I was a full time student. I rushed them to childcare, attended classes all day with care-free twenty-somethings, picked up my kiddos, raced home and then stuffed them with five minutes meals. Bath time was followed by bedtime and all the while I scolded hurry, hurry, hurry! I studied all night, and after a few hours of sleep dragged myself out of bed, and poured milk with my eyes closed into waiting bowls of cheerios. Enjoying the moment seemed an impossible goal as my brain was always calculating hours of study versus hours of sleep. No matter how I tried, I could never get enough of either. In those early years of parenting, functioning in a state of exhaustion seemed to be a way of life.
When I finally graduated with a degree in Accounting at twenty-three, my children were just five and four years old. A few years later, I was a single mom with a full-time job and I continued to rush my children through their childhood as I raced through my life, creating a list of achievements that didn’t include Mother of the Year. It seems I got the memo saying, You can have it all. But, I missed the follow up . . . You just can’t have it all at once. I can only hope that my children know I did the best I could with what I had.
I cannot go back in time, and I won’t let regret shape my future. So, I take the lessons learned and share them with my grandson. When I spend time with him, I let him rule the day. As a quiet observer, I follow his lead, as he experiences the world , his way, at his pace. I marvel as he marvels at spiders, and pincher bugs. He tells me, they are good and the pincher bug is my friend because I am a boy, and it only does soft pinches.
He is fascinated with trash trucks. He insists we clean up trash. We walk the alleys of my neighborhood. He wants to know where to put the trash he collects. I tell him green cans for plants, blue for recycle and brown for trash. He tells me, mommy says I am a big helper. For each piece of trash he gathers he announces which color bin he will use. Looking for reassurance, he asks me, All the people will be happy that I am cleaning all the trash? I tell him, yes they will be so happy. He says again, I am a big helper. I tell him that he is helping our world and he repeats my words proudly, I am helping our world.
We continue scouring the alleys for trash. Feeling bolder, now my grandson is moving the bins, opening the large lids and allowing them to bang loudly against the outside of the can. He throws in his bits of trash and using all his strength he flips the lid to close the can again, and pushes it back in its place. This is hard work for a little guy, but he doesn’t ask for help and I allow him to struggle . . . and he is so proud of his accomplishment, I am good trash helper Nonna. Mommy says I am strong helper. His chubby little hands are filthy and I ask, What do we always do after we pick up trash? He proudly says, Wash our hands. Looking down at his hands he smiles and says, my hands are filfy.
Our pace is slow, we are in no hurry, and I find myself wishing so badly that I knew then what I know now. Remembering every time someone looked at me and my children longingly and said, Cherish these moments, the years fly by, enjoy the simple things, I can only sigh. I didn’t connect those words to me or my life in any way. I thought it was just polite chatter offered by old people. I wish someone would have grabbed me by the shoulders, given me a good shake and screamed LISTEN!!
Today I am listening. I listen happily to my grandson’s funny words and his mispronunciations. I answer his questions, and sometimes say, You tell me the answer, and he does. I want him to believe he is important and that what he does is important. I show him what I believe with the way I behave because he is watching me; I didn’t realize how closely until today. He turned to look at me, cocked his little head and asked, why are you smiling on your face Nonna? Until that moment, I didn’t know I was wearing a smile, but instantly I answered, Because you are here with me, and I love you. I kissed his little lips and he smiled too.
They are watching us . . . let’s be doing something worthy of watching, something worthy of learning, something worthy of being