I started taking care of my youngest grandchild, Sarah, when she was 3 months old. Her mother, Christy—the youngest of my two daughters—was starting a new job, and her husband, Dave, was also working. Although my husband and I were living in New Mexico at the time, we moved back to Oklahoma to be close to our grandchildren. Not only that, but we didn't want a 3-month-old baby going to the nursery if we could be there for her. So we moved to the same neighborhood, and I started taking care of Sarah all day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
And now that she's 5 and has just started kindergarten, all of that is changing.
"I'm going to miss you," I told Sarah this summer, as she was preparing for her new school year.
After trying to make me feel better by telling me I could pick her up at the bus stop, she said matter-of-factly, "I have to learn!"
I remember the bottles, changing her diapers, rocking her in the rocking chair and singing all of the nursery rhymes. She liked to ride in my car and go to places like Whole Foods, where all the free samples are, and Starbucks, where there's chocolate. When she was a baby, I would push her in her buggy and we would look at the birds. She would see her grandfather in the distance waiting for us when we got back home, and she'd holler. Those are the things I remember. Just the ordinary things. Just life.
She'll talk about all of that now. "Did you do this for me, did you do that for me?" she'll ask. I'll say, "Yes, and I used to pat you on the po-po."
It's like having another child when you're older, as the second mother. You see them go through all the stages. Christy, her mother, would have a book, and I'd write down what Sarah would say and do. When she started to talk—she was always verbal—she would say the funniest things. The other day, in fact, after finding out that her mom, who's a doctor, was changing jobs, she asked, "Mommy, what's your new job? Are you selling shoes or something?"
Sarah is like Christy and looks like her, and she wants to win and do as well as her big sister (Caitlyn), like her mom did when she was that age. So that was fun, too, seeing that.
Of course, you don't want them to stay little forever, but it was a fun time. I love all my grandchildren (who also include Sarah's sister, Caitlyn, and brother, Aidan, along with five other cousins). It was a time when I got to be with her and get to know her. With your own children, you're busier with work and life.
What I've learned from this is to cherish the moments you have with your children—and grandchildren—because you can't get them back. Whatever you can do to help your child grow, it more than comes back later on. You can teach them to be useful citizens who contribute to the world and to their families and their children.
And what do I think Sarah will take from this? She knows that she can count on her grandparents. She knows we love her. Probably she'll remember that always.