I’ve written much about the joy of grandparenthood, but now it’s time to confess— it can also be exhausting! Five days with my darling 3-year old Zadie has been glorious, but she is a different person and that delight is also the difficulty. She has an iron will and her own value system about what is worthy of a smile and what suggests a scream or a cry.
For example, don’t even think about unbuckling her seat belt or opening the car door when it stops. She knows how to do it and is determined to show you again and again— and again. If you have a lapse and dare to transgress that sacred territory, be prepared for five minutes of tears and scowls where one second ago was a smile. Likewise with opening the front door of the house, putting on the Christmas lights, unwrapping the presents.
I think a lot about Maria Montessori, who warned us a century ago never to do something for the child which he or she can do him or herself. She had a whole pedagogical system behind that thought, but who knows, maybe it was inspired by a little Italian 3-year-old like Zadie. Zadie is also very clear about which songs you can or cannot sing and how you must dance when she plays the harmonica. Standing up. In the place she points to. When it comes to things like that, another Italian comes to mind—Mussolini.
She’s a pretty good eater, but if you give her a fried banana from a Caribbean restaurant, no logic will convince her that that dirty thing is really a banana. It’s not yellow and though she’ll make mud pies with real mud and smear her face and such, she will certainly not taste that dirty banana. Or tamales, another dirty food that must be kept a minimum of five feet from her eating arena.
On the plus side, it’s a delight to take her around to help out with the little chores of the household and as Montessori suggested, see her pride in beginning to master the details of daily life. And equally— or perhaps more for my own artistic sensibility— sheer joy to listen to her play the piano and sing or tell little stories to herself in the car seat or cook you pancakes using drink coasters. Her imagination is firing on all cylinders and her little observations and comments a constant delight to behear.
Being the only grandchild, she’s surrounded by five doting adults— grandparents, parents and aunt— all with the same agenda of making her happy all day long. Sometimes it seems a bit much and I’m sure it will change with more children in the mix, but when it comes to this vacation time, the cardinal rule is “Follow her bliss.” All schedules revolve around her naptime, our traditional Christmas Day movie got nixed, playgrounds are suddenly the number 1 San Francisco tourist site. Combined with negotiating each day’s activities with the other family members, vacation can truly be exhausting!
But still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Oops– naptime and Zadie is calling for a story. I have to run right now— or else!!!