Sunday, March 24, 2024

One-Year Old Grandpa

A few days from now, we will celebrate the first birthday of our granddaughter whose advent last year made us grandparents. Here are a few things I have learned from my first year of grandparenthood.

1. Our granddaughter lives too far away: a 75-minute drive under the best of conditions. We don't get to see our son, our daughter-in-law (my favorite daughter-in-law — also currently our only daughter-in-law), and our granddaughter (my favorite grandchild — also currently our only grandchild) nearly as often as a grandpa ought to. That's not all our fault nor all the fault of our son and daughter-in-law. It's just how life plays out. It can be challenging to make schedules mesh well.

2. And yet, the current distance is not all bad. We still get regular opportunities to see this family. The distance has also helped them achieve a level of self-sufficiency that might have been less likely had they lived closer to us.

3. I am a pushover when it comes to my granddaughter. Our granddaughter is a very smiley kid. She certainly doesn't smile all the time. She gets cross, hungry, tired, messy, etc. just like any baby. But our granddaughter is a very social child. She loves to make eye contact with and purposefully engage others. When she does this with me and then tilts her head just so, it makes my grandpa heart sigh and I will do just about anything she wants, if I can understand what that is.

4. Every child develops at its own pace. Of course, I already knew this after raising five children. But I'm somehow more OK with it now. Our granddaughter is a very active child. But even at nearly a year old, she is not crawling or standing. She has learned a certain amount of mobility by doing the "booty-scoot." She doesn't move fast, but it's surprising how much mobility she gets by bouncing on her bottom.

The grandchild of a coworker is about the same age, but that child has already progressed through the crawling phase, regularly stands and walks with the aid of furniture, and occasionally takes a handful of unsupported steps. So what? Our grandchild will progress at her own rate and it will be fine.

5. Our house is not child-proofed like it was years ago. Our cabinets no longer have protective latches and there are a lot of things that are accessible from ground or near-ground levels that a child ought not to handle. We have no gate for the top of the stairway. It's not so bad right now while our granddaughter is at an age where she is under constant supervision during visits and her mobility is limited. But all that will change before long.

6. Baby wrangling is much more physically demanding at my current age than when I was raising my own children. For example, squatting down to pick up something from the floor while holding my granddaughter and then standing back up is a much more challenging operation than the same thing was two decades ago when our daughter was our granddaughter's current age. And I work out every day, including doing squat exercises. I don't want to know what it would be like if I didn't work out.

7. Our granddaughter likes the same kinds of games that our children enjoyed when they were her age. Every time I dredge up one of these activities, it offers a nostalgic trip down memory lane even while forming new memories.

8. Our granddaughter isn't very keen on having books read to her yet. This could be informed by the selection of books I have tried. Each of our children liked having books read to them from their earliest age. Our granddaughter will tolerate it for a couple of minutes, but then she's done. I suppose this will develop with time.

9. There is joy. Joy in seeing the wonder of a child discovering her world. Joy in seeing our son and daughter-in-law grapple with life as young parents. Joy in the manifold noises our granddaughter makes. (She is a very vocal child and there is often a level of happiness in her noise that makes me smile.) Joy in snuggling a tired grandchild as she drifts off to sleep in my arms. Bittersweet joy in saying goodbye at the end of a visit.

I can imagine but I can't know how things will change in the future. Just as our grandchild is growing and experiencing many things for the first time, I am growing and learning new grandpa things. This process of discovery is part of the experience. Part of the challenge — and part of the joy.