There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that beats being a grandparent.
I sometimes joke with friends that grandkids are nature’s reward for surviving being a parent, but I’m actually not kidding. Grandkids are amazing, wonderful creatures, and they just keep getting better with age.
I have quite a range now — from the amazing Chloe, who at 16 is every bit as astonishingly beautiful and smart as she was when she became my first experience in the wonderful world of “grandma” — down to ninja Dylan, who at 6 is lately enamored of working out regularly, the better to master karate.
In between, I have actress-singer Alyssa, 14; free spirit Jaime, 12; gymnast Michele, 11; master gamer Jackson, 10; future American superhero, Lewis, also 10; and animal-of-all-ilk whisperer, Geneva, 9.
Watching them grow, learn and develop into astonishingly different people with unique likes, dislikes and talents is a constant joy.
Chloe, once the aspiring astronaut, has discovered the fabulous world of pictures, videos and words and just may be a budding journalist. But the idea of guiding a robot to finding life on Saturn or Mars is still pretty appealing. Will she do it? Or just go along for the ride and chronicle the journeys of the people who do?
Alyssa took her first career aptitude tests as a freshman in high school and got “actress” or perhaps “theater teacher.” What a surprise. It’s not like she’s currently spending four or five hours a day in rehearsals for three shows or anything.
Jaime fights daily with her mom (paybacks are a grandma’s joy), but spends hours writing her own crazy fiction, painting pictures and creating amazing things on her sewing machine. My bet is still on her for engineering, because I honestly think she cares more about how any machine works than about what you can do with it. She reminds me of the TV commercial of the little girl who is in her bedroom inventing a robot to take out the trash, her assigned household task.
Michele, at 4 feet, 10 inches and unlikely to get much taller, relishes her gymnastics and practices for hours every day. But she’s also a lover of all things aquatic, especially dolphins. She told me all about Winter, a rescued dolphin with a prosthetic tail; and even though she doesn’t know it yet, Grandma is going to make sure she gets to meet that dolphin at the end of October. Because that’s what you get to do when you have the great role of Grandma. You don’t have to pay the light bill or the mortgage or keep up with the pace of outgrown clothes, or tear your hair out making sure they UNDERSTAND the consequences of not learning math. You get to just make dreams come true because you can.
My Jackson has got to be the sweetest little boy in the world. How many 10-year-olds make sure that any time Grandma comes by — even to drop off or pick up a sibling — she gets a hug? He tells me he knows I like being hugged, and he does, too. He’s a quick little tyke who beats every video game and is now thinking maybe he should create games that challenge other people. Or maybe, he says, he can figure out how to use computers to figure out how to fix broken bones and make muscles stronger if they get hurt or broken. He thinks anything involving numbers makes perfect sense, and he can add three-digit columns of numbers in his head. He reminds of my dad. He says he hopes can figure out a computer program that will make his mom’s fibromyalgia stop hurting.
Lewis tells me he wants to invent a time machine so he can go back and give his mommy “baby Lewis” any time she misses him, because sometimes she cries when she thinks how fast he got big and started talking about being a Navy SEAL or a superhero.
“She could just get in the machine and have a few hours of holding me when I was a baby,” he said. “I think that would be a great machine.” You know, Lewis, I think that would be a great machine, too. I might even go back and hold your mommy.
How do we describe Geneva? The Neva-Diva adores crowns and glittery shoes, but also runs around in underpants and hugs any animal alive, regardless of domestic status. The kid is as likely to become friends with a squirrel as a dog or cat. She’s worried about the deaths of moths and butterflies, which I have tried to explain to her have very short lives.
A few years ago, I got a sign with a photo of a little girl facing a storm and a big dog that carried the inscription “She is tiny but she is fierce” for her room. It fits her. She is tiny. She was a preemie and she has grown slowly. At nine, she looks six. But she is fierce. And she will win.
The baby of the group is Dylan. Ah, our Dylan. He is part ninja, part first-grader, part superhero, part historian. Everything fascinates him. He loves World War II documentaries. He is fascinated by space and the ocean. He said he thinks it would be cool if you could really be one of those shrunk-down people who traveled through the human body in a tiny submarine. He loves everybody, including his grandma — which of course is fine by me. He especially loves cats (he says he will have 100 when nobody stops him; note to future wife: STOP HIM).
So now you have met my amazing grandkids. They are my reason to care, my reason to fear the future while believing in the future, and my reason to fight to make the future better.
I’d be willing to bet that every single one of yours is equally amazing, smart, beautiful and creative. Because that is what grandkids are. Let’s vow together to make the future great for all of them.