Sam Cabala, grandson of this column’s author.
My first grandchild just turned one and it’s been a remarkable year. When I found out I was going to be a grandparent, I was excited, but I wondered if I was really ready..
I had not been out of the active parenting stage for very long and although I had enjoyed having children, I had been a single mother for many years and I was relieved to be done with that responsibility. Plus, I still thought of grandparents as my parent’s generation and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take on the title of “grandma” just yet.
I don’t think my reaction is the most common one, however. Mary and Ken Mahoney, of Montague, have six grandchildren under the age of seven. Since they are “expert” grandparents, I asked what they thought.
Mary told me she’d been “waiting for them (grandchildren) her entire life.” She likes how she can see her kids in her grandkids. And she likes how her grandchildren look up to her and think she can do everything. Grandchildren “keep him young,” Ken says. He admits he would not have been sliding down a snow hill recently otherwise!
It wasn’t long before the new baby boy, Sam, was here. It’s interesting to realize how being a new grandparent stirs up long ago memories. I remember how quickly the practice of holding a newborn came back to me. And yes, along with that, the familiar jiggling and rocking essential for soothing a fussy baby. I feel very fortunate my son and his family have always lived relatively close to me. I can’t imagine having a grandchild hours away or in another state or country, but know many for whom that is the situation. I was lucky to be able to babysit Sam when he was a week old.
I was nervous, but enjoyed the chance to begin bonding with him. I didn’t have many opportunities to babysit, as his mother is a “stay at home mom,” but each time its been a unique experience to be with such a fascinating being.
In addition, I had not realized how interesting it would be to observe my son become a parent. All of a sudden, the world was a different place for him. There was talk of limiting TV and video games in the new household as the baby grew older and the menu began to feature more nutritious meals. Mostly, I was heartened to see how loving, patient, and gentle my son was with the new baby.
I try to see Sam at least once a week. I want to be able to see the many changes that take place as he develops. I know full well that I missed seeing changes in my two children as they grew up -- being a parent was the hardest job I’ve ever had! The best thing about being a grandparent is the ability to see things differently than when I was a parent. Now I have what I call “grandparent eyes” -- eyes that benefit from years of experience of years raising two children and from living in this world.
It seems so much easier to see every new change with my grandparent eyes. I’ve enthusiastically marked all of the important first milestones – the first smile, reaching for objects, making sounds, interacting with people, crawling, first steps and the first attempts at language – and I plan to continue. Like most grandparents, I think my grandchild is the cutest and smartest baby I’ve ever seen. Everything he does is endlessly fascinating and I am continually enthralled with his smallest of accomplishments.
I look forward to more grandchildren and wonder what they will be like. “Each one is different,” Ken tells me, “They all have their own personalities, quirks, likes and dislikes. They each bring a little joy to you because they do something different.”
Having a grandchild makes me think about the world in a different way. One of the main reasons I became involved in environmental protection work several decades ago was to make the world a better place for my children. Being a grandparent makes me want to work even harder to make a difference. There is even more urgency and purpose. But it also makes me want to slow down and enjoy each precious moment with Sam.
Tanya Cabala is a lifelong resident of the White Lake area. A former educator and professional environmental advocate, she is currently the owner of Great Lakes Consulting, which provides project support and grant writing services to environmental and community nonprofit organizations. More information is available at www.tanyacabala.com. Tanya loves her hometown, loves writing, and loves to hear from her readers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (231) 981-0016.