Four generations of separation

After having children, I think it's fair to say that we start judging our friends, family, even strangers based on how they treat them.

I can't help it; there's something divine about discovering a distant relative who always remembers your kid's birthday each year with a card. And there's something equally off-putting about the friend who hardly acknowledges that your child is in the room, let alone humoring her with gushy compliments about the carefully scribbled purple and orange horse she's so proud of having drawn.

What? I was busy pouring the Pinot.

But I hadn't stopped to think about how we feel when the our kids behave nicely towards the other people we love in our lives.

This past week, we spent a week in Florida with my nearly 91 year-old grandmother. I realize you can't expect too much of a three and a half year old and a 21 month-old in terms of empathy towards a relative they hardly know. You can't expect them to notice when Momsie is sitting alone in a chair, to come to her on demand, or to be entirely comfortable with her wrinkled hands and her slow walk. When she calls on the phone, I can hardly count on them to say much more than Hi...alldonebyebye before racing off to attend something far more interesting. Like a TV show. Or a rubber band.

And yet, I kept hoping throughout the week that they would give Momsie a little attention and maybe even a little affection. That despite their limited human experience, Thalia and Sage might somehow intuit that a nearly 91 year old great-grandmother who has outlived her husband by 20 years and damn near all of her friends--that this woman lives for the little moments.

Sometimes a teeny hand clutched around weathered fingers means a lot to the bearer of the fingers.

And so every time we gathered together and I saw Momsie set her sights on a little attention from the great-grandchildren I held my breath to see if she would get it.

In fact, she got more.

She got long descriptions of preschool and best friends, cats and chocolate cupcakes. She got awkward, silly, exuberant dancing on demand to Benny Goodman and Na Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye. She got copious lap sitting, hand holding, and walks up and down the sunny hallway. She even got in a game of hide and seek with Thalia who hides behind the same curtain every single time.

She got many kisses, many hugs, and two painstakingly hand-decorated Valentine's cards with MOMSIE on the inside, both now clipped to the fridge beneath the growing collection of family snapshots.

She got love.

Witnessing my girls connecting with their great-grandmother was of course joyous in itself. What I hadn't expected was how much more deeply it made me fall in love with my own girls. I want those I care about to love my girls, but I also want my girls to care about those I love.


Blogger Issas Crazy World said...

Beautiful post Liz. I feel the same way you do.

I was lucky enough to know my great-grandma. One thing about her, was she was never too busy to talk to me. She never said, not now, or in a minute. That I think makes all the difference in the world.

2/24/09, 1:36 PM  
Blogger Stacy Quarty said...

A sweet post!

I had a similar experience with my mother-in-law a few weeks ago. The kids and I went to visit her in a hospital in Florida. She had suddenly taken very ill. Even though she had lost over 30lbs. and was unwashed and disheveled, they showered her with hugs and kisses, which I was so grateful for. We just returned home from her funeral last weekend. We were lucky to have had that time with her. They are precious moments!

2/24/09, 1:42 PM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

And now I have fallen in love with your girls too.

Sweet, considerate lil darlings!

2/24/09, 1:44 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

My L loves his great-pa too. There's something special in a 90-year-difference bond, isn't there? And wow, does Momsie look great! Beautiful post.

2/24/09, 1:56 PM  
Blogger Marinka said...

Oh, this is so lovely. They are very lucky to have each other.

2/24/09, 2:03 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Wonderful. I needed that today.

2/24/09, 2:37 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Oh, I am bawling over this post. I am so happy your grandmother has this chance to be with her great-grandchildren. It is lovely (as are your girls).

2/24/09, 2:59 PM  
Blogger steph said...

That experience is priceless as a parent. You know how amazing your grandma is, and having your children discover her and love her in their own ways as you watch from a distance is awesome. I can appreciate the emotions you described and certainly can relate.
This was a lovely pick-me-up for the day!

2/24/09, 3:21 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Momsie looks great for 91!!!!

2/24/09, 3:21 PM  
Blogger J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Beautiful, beautiful girls and grandma. I love that they have this time together. :)

2/24/09, 3:58 PM  
Blogger MadWoman said...

Ohhh what a lovely post!

I wish I could have my kids meet my grandmother before we move. Come to think of it, I'd love for them to meet my great grandmother...she's 107 and still kickin around. Would be lovely.

Your kids just showed you (and us) what is so great about this world...the kids keep it loving :)

2/24/09, 4:16 PM  
Anonymous beyond said...

good genes in your family, lucky you.
i often think of how i want my (not yet existent!) children to meet my wonderful grandfather and make precious memories.

2/24/09, 4:26 PM  
Blogger erin said...

My kids still have 4 of their great-grandparents and I think I live for those moments just as much as mine and my husband's grandparents. It makes me sad that we only get them a couple of times a year.

2/24/09, 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

this made me teary!! your girls are sooooo lucky to have the time they have with Momsie. so awesome. love to you and thalia and sage (and Nate)!!!

2/24/09, 4:32 PM  
Blogger Mr Lady said...

I love it! My kids have nothing like that anymore. They have one grandparent and she's traveling the world. My father disowned the lot of us a few years ago, so they are without.

That's a really important connection for both, I think. I remember going to my gramma's funeral when I was 13 and all I wanted to do was touch her hand. That's the memory of her I took away.

Beautiful post. Clearly, you struck a cord with me. I'll shut it now. :)

2/24/09, 4:43 PM  
Anonymous Alexis said...

I'm all teary now! My girls were the same way with my 90 year old grandmother, who died in November. I was so happy that I was able to provide her with great-grandchildren that she loved and who loved her back.

2/24/09, 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Dana said...

I think it's wonderful that your daughters were so kind to your grandmother.

Oh, how I wish mine was still alive to know Dawson. She'd be so happy to meet him.

You are a very lucky woman.

I love this post. Even though it made me cry, it was beautiful.
(I know, I'm too emotional...must be the pregnancy hormones...)

2/24/09, 5:18 PM  
Blogger Amy@UWM said...

Lovely post. Brought me back to the days when my beloved grandmother was alive. My girls were equally standoff-ish on the phone, but when Grandma Millie was here in person, they gave her lots of love and attention. Of course Grandma Millie knew just how to engage my girls too by giving them a piece of her old costume jewelry that they loved or telling them just the right story. I still miss my grandmother so much!

2/24/09, 5:29 PM  
Blogger KLM said...

i have a totally irrelevant question. do you use cloth diapers? if so, what brand, and where do i start? i'm expecting my first in july and i'm looking around.

ps, i guess you can email me or leave a comment...sugarberry07(at)gmail(dot)com

2/24/09, 6:11 PM  
Blogger April said...

how sweet :-)

2/24/09, 6:28 PM  
Blogger J from Ireland said...

That is just lovely. My 97 yr old Grandmother was like that with my 3 eldest kids and they in turn loved her too. Sadly she died before I had my last baby, but my daughter was born on her birthday so there is still a connection.
We are lucky people.

2/24/09, 6:38 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

I sometimes think they just know. Or maybe it's that they sense the love you have for her.

Although my kids LOVE my mother-in-law. And you know there's not a lot of love coming from me on that one.

2/24/09, 7:47 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

That is awesome and it's cool that the girls just did it. Must be the cool example you set. Proof that you are raising two wonderful ladies.

2/24/09, 9:42 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I got all teary reading this. I wish that my grandparents had lived to see my kids. My oldest sometimes tells me she misses Grandpa K, but he died many years before she was born. He'd have been smitten with her for sure.

2/24/09, 9:54 PM  
Anonymous MetroDad said...

The inherent kindness and beauty of having young children around never ceases to amaze me. Children really are the most life-affirming vehicles of love and uncomplicated love. So glad that momsie got all the young love that she deserves.

2/24/09, 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Auntie Fred said...

You continue to touch my heart over and over....much love to you all.

2/24/09, 11:08 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

What a wonderful description of a loving visit.

And your grandmother does not look 91.

2/25/09, 12:22 AM  
Blogger Mom on the Run said...

Growing up I only knew one set of grandparents. My graddad died when I was 8, my grandma when I was 15. My dad's parents died many years before I was born.

I am grateful that my children have both sets of grandparents to enjoy. Both sets live close by. In fact we have never paid a babysitter, until my daughter turned 13.

2/25/09, 12:24 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

So much love in all directions! I so enjoyed reading that.

My preschooler had the biggest grin on his face this evening as he explained to my mom that he was going to help her learn his favorite video game - Star Wars Lego! so that she could have fun too. We'll work on him being interested in what she likes next. :0

2/25/09, 12:47 AM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Pow! Right in the achy heart that's been missing my Granny.

It never fails to bring me to tears when Tacy reminisces about the grandmother I loved so much, let alone the love she showed Granny when she was alive.

It bridges those decades in a way I never imagined.

2/25/09, 12:58 AM  
Blogger deb said...

Thanks for sharing your warm and fuzzy experience with us. Are my tears for hope, bittersweet memories, breathtaking beauty ? No matter, my heartfelt emotion was as raw as their pure respectful love. Kudos to you as a mom.

2/25/09, 7:51 AM  
Blogger Wicked Step Mom said...

Beautiful! And something that I totally understand. My parents were strangers to my girls but they have all accepted each other and there has been much bonding!

2/25/09, 9:06 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Beautiful post and I'm so glad you were 'in the moment'.

As always, fantastic writing.

2/25/09, 2:07 PM  
Anonymous PB Rippey/sleepless mama said...

So special! I wish my grandmother had lived long enough to see my son. But my sister's kids were able to meet her and there are photos that will never let them forget her. And they don't!

2/25/09, 3:34 PM  
Blogger Mom et al said...

Ack! Totally making me cry at work. Beautifully stated.

2/25/09, 3:55 PM  
Blogger Elaine A. said...

Sounds like it was a wonderful visit for everyone.

My husband's grandparents live in the same city so my boys get to see them a lot which is so wonderful to me. I love watching them interact.

Lovely post...

2/25/09, 7:23 PM  
Blogger Smiling Mama said...

So beautiful. I think children naturally have a great deal of empathy. When my mom was going thru breast cancer my normally crazy son would sit and cuddle with her for a long time. It was beautiful and he was her best medicine.

2/25/09, 7:23 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

OH this is so beautiful. So glad you had this time with your girls and Momsie.

Also! If I make it to old-lady-hood and great-grandmother-dome, I AM TOTALLY STEALING THE NAME MOMSIE FOR MYSELF. Thanks.

2/26/09, 4:27 PM  
Blogger Elisa said...

Oh, she must have been so happy! I love that. When they connect with someone you love so readily, no cajoling. And I love the pic of you 4!

2/27/09, 9:23 PM  
Anonymous bitemycookie said...

sigh. you know how i feel about amazing grandmothers. thank you.oxdt

3/3/09, 2:57 PM  

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