My two-year-old daughter was missing. I’d been sitting in a lawn chair under the Georgia pines that summer morning while I watched her play in the driveway and must have dozed off again. I ran around the yard and through the house and back outside calling for her—not too loud because I didn’t want to call attention to my parenting dilemma. My voice got shriller, and I tried to squash my panic. I wondered how long I should wait before I called the police.
I finally found her rocking on the next-door neighbor’s porch. She’d heard me but hadn’t thought it necessary to respond.
I was sure I had some horrible disease at 38 years old, but my doctor insisted my fatigue signaled depression and prescribed medication. A few weeks later, my husband and I counseled with our pastor who advised we just needed more fun in our life. We lived 900 miles from family, so we invested in sitters and in date nights (not many—too expensive), and it was just what the doctor didn’t order. I tossed the pills.
A couple years later, after we’d adopted our son, we moved back to Michigan to be closer to family. By then, though, my mother-in-law had died, and my father-in-law was in no position to give us breaks. My parents still lived 200 miles away, so they couldn’t regularly help. But one time, we decided to run away for a weekend. We deposited our daughter with a friend and met my parents halfway on Friday so they could keep our son who was about four at the time.
My mom took her babysitting job seriously. She refused to let him go snowmobiling with his cousins because she was afraid he might get hurt, though she ultimately relented. She reprimanded him for getting up to watch what she felt were inappropriate television shows while they slept, made him re-bathe when he hadn’t scrubbed his hands clean enough, and was horrified when he found her scissors and cut his hair. He burst into tears when we picked him up, and we never asked them to babysit again.
Fifteen years after my daughter was lost and then found, she became a single mom. At first she lived with us and then nearby. I knew what it was like to be a nonworking, supposedly wise, tired, mature mother without family help. So I knew trying to function as a young working mom with little spendable income who was still trying to find herself and ultimately developed some serious health issues had to be ten times harder. I became a very involved “nama.”
And I don’t think I ever fell asleep and lost her child.
That grand girl is thirteen now, which means I’m also another thirteen years older. My body rejects the speed I still want to travel and the weight I still want to lift.
My son, whose hair has long since grown back and who now lives 30 miles away, recently asked if I would care for his new little sweet pea, at least until she’s six months old, when my daughter-in-law goes back to work. He also asked if I could help with transportation—meet them halfway before and after work five days a week. I’m grateful that we live close enough to be an option (as in not living 900 miles away) and that he trusts me and wants the youngest grand girl to bond as tightly with me as the oldest. I’m also shocked at the cost of daycare.
But I have writing deadlines to meet, and I’m starting to finally lean into my limitations. I struggled with and prayed over my answer because I still want to do it all, and I didn’t want to lose this opportunity. We’ve finally settled on a compromise. This little munchkin will go to daycare three days a week, but then I get to rock and spoil her for two. “Spoil” being the magic word, but don’t tell my son. I’ll let you know how it goes.
And I’ll try not to doze off and lose her.
How much are you involved in lives of your grandchildren? Is it too much? Too little? How can grandparents balance their own needs with the needs of their adult children and/or grandchildren? What was your relationship with your own grandparents? Did you have family help with your own kids?
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