As I sit here in the Atlanta airport with still more than an hour before my flight to Baltimore boards (I am home now ... just didn't have internet access during my trip), I am contemplating what I have heard from several people these last few days. Knowing I am flying up to meet my first grandchild, most people say something to the effect of, "I hope you have a good time spoiling that baby," or "Be sure to have fun making him mad and then handing him over to Mom and Dad ... you can do that now, you know?"
I know, it's all in jest. I think anyone who has ever even HAD a grandparent knows that grandparenting is a much more enjoyable, much more laid-back "job" than parenting. I have never even laid eyes on my little grandbaby, and I already know that I am going to thoroughly ENJOY this, and that the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is a far different dynamic than that of parents and children. I fully "get" that there is going to be some gloating and lots of "I told you so" smirks as my children move into this new season of life and experience all of the trials and frustrations that we did (and still do). I know I will get that little baby in my arms and have the desire to make sure he has everything he could ever need and want. After all, isn't that what grandmothers are for? Isn’t it a grandparent’s job to spoil their grandchildren rotten?
Is it really?
I had grandparents who didn't spoil me, either materially or by allowing me to “get away with” improper behavior. I don't remember any "thing" specifically given to me by any of my grandparents. I do remember that my Memaw would take me shopping every year for my birthday and that my birthday present was usually a pretty Easter dress. I didn't really have a huge appreciation for dresses when I was younger, but I did enjoy the experience of shopping with her. I don't remember much at all about my father's parents; they always did their own thing and were traveling so often that we didn't really see them that often. I remember my Papaw telling me that he loved having me around because I was the calmest of any of his grandchildren. It "helped" my cause that I was the only girl, I was tiny compared to the boys (even though I was the oldest) and that my brother and cousins were always loud and rambunctious; Papaw never had an impatient word for his quiet, shy little granddaughter ... yes, it was sort of nice being the only girl, but I knew they didn’t have any “favorites”! No, my grandparents never really "spoiled" me (or any of their other grandchildren, that I know of), but they did give me an amazing example that I plan to follow with my own grandchildren.
I couldn't get away with anything around my grandparents. In fact, my great-grandmother (Mamaw) could see through me better than anyone else in my life. She could tell when I was "tellin' a story", and when I had a bad case of the wiggles. My grandparents showed an intense interest in my life; they always wanted me to be with them; I was never "in the way". They never complained about the messes I made, but rather included me in all of the messy aspects of daily life. I learned to drive a tractor, pick blackberries, weed a garden, prune trees, and make communion bread from my grandparents. I also learned respect from them. I learned to appreciate frugality. I learned what true beauty was, and that it cannot be found in any "thing" this fallen world has to offer. I learned the difference between strength and toughness. I learned when to cry, when to laugh, and that holding one's head high should display confidence rather than conceit.
My parents weren't awful people. They weren't neglectful. They provided well for me and my brother. They didn’t necessarily abdicate my upbringing to my grandparents, but for whatever reason, I just listened more to my grandparents than to my parents. The informal lessons of life weren't as obvious, but they were just as much, if not MORE effective when they came from my grandparents.
I'm not rushing into this grandmothering thing flippantly. I take my "job" as an Omi VERY seriously. My grandchildren (singular now, but I do certainly hope the Lord blesses us with a whole slew of grandchildren!) are not just pretty faces to post pictures of on my wall (either virtual or physical). They aren't trophies for me to parade around for the world to see. They aren't toys for me to play with and then hand back when I get tired of them or when they start acting up. Levi isn't mine to "spoil". In fact, I wouldn't want him to spoil. I don't want my grandchildren to be rotten. Something that is spoiled is not pleasant, and I don't want my relationship with Levi or any of his siblings or cousins to be that of a 'stuff-giver'. I want my grandbabies to have the memories I do of my own grandparents. I want them to be able to look at pictures of me (ugh, I guess that means I will have to let someone TAKE pictures ... eeks) and recall a memory, not a blank. I want to be part of their lives. I want them to know my phone number and be able to dial it like I could my Mamaw's when I was little. I still know that number. I just "dialed" it in my head, three decades later! I want my grandchildren to look forward to spending time with me and to miss me when we’re apart. When they’re older and I have left this life, I want to leave a legacy behind that will influence my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren to desire the truly GOOD things in this life, and I want to be able to be the person for them who shows them what a dedicated Christian lives.
OF COURSE I want them to have that influence from their parents, but by the time my children have married and brought children into this world, my work as parent has pretty much been phased out and I have little say in what kind of environment my grandchildren are raised in. I can give advice, but it's likely that most of it will be ignored. LOL I take on this new role of life with much humility, because I know I will never be perfect. I will never be able to be everything God wants me to be. But I certainly won’t stop trying! I know how powerful my influence can be. No … WILL be. One way or the other, Levi and his future siblings and cousins WILL be influenced by my life. I just want to make sure it’s not a “rotten” influence. So I will boldly say that if my grandbabies are going to be ‘spoiled’, it will not be by me!