Grandparenting comes naturally to me because my parents were excellent role models.
Just like my two granddaughters who are being raised next door to me and my husband, my children were raised next door to my parents. I know that oftentimes my children felt as though they had two sets of parents. And that’s a good thing.
My parents went to my children’s swim meets, ballet recitals, soccer matches, baseball games and school- and church-related events. They never missed a birthday party or graduation. And they were the only baby sitters my children ever had.
My father died in April 2008 at 81 years old. My mother, thankfully, is still going strong at 83. And she is just as close to my grandchildren as I am. In fact, my mother baby-sits the 20-month-old, her namesake (Evelyn), four days a week, and the 5-year-old spends at least one night with her each week. The little girls adore their great-grandmother.
And why wouldn’t they? She plays with them. She feeds them. She teaches them to cook. She takes them for walks. She sings to them. She reads to them. And, boy, does she love them. Her hugs and kisses are plentiful.
My daughter and her family moved to Chattanooga about a year and a half before my father died. Having a little girl in the house eased my father’s pain. When he died, she became the saving grace for my mother. And when the second great-granddaughter came along two years later, we were thrilled. Children have a magical way of bringing sunshine your way.
So, as I sit here at work writing this column, my mother is at her house baby-sitting my granddaughter. I can assure you she’s not sitting in a rocking chair crocheting while the baby is sitting in a playpen. They are doing something productive, and they’re doing it together.
And, if the girls happen to be feeling ill, there’s no better place to be than at Mother’s house. She makes Florence Nightingale look like a slacker. Even today when my own adult children get sick, no matter if they’re living in California or Tennessee, they want to be with their grandmother. Me, too.
Mother’s formula for parenting and grandparenting is based on just one ingredient: unconditional love. She taught me early on that life goes by fast and to never take for granted the people you love and the people who love you.
My father used to say, “There’s three words in any language that can’t be spoken enough: I love you.”
My mother celebrated her 83rd birthday on Jan. 11. As she and her two great-granddaughters blew out the candles on her cake, I couldn’t help but make a wish of my own: If I live to be 83 years old, I hope I have her energy, her legacy and, most of all, great-grandchildren to love.