My Heart is Walking Around Outside My Body – Again?!
One of the quotes about parenting that I like is, “Making the decision to have a child — it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” My kids are in their thirties, and I believe this to be true. When they’re happy, I’m happy. When one of them is going through a tough time, I feel their pain. I expected this from being a mother, but I didn’t expect to feel this way about my grandchildren. I’m going to take Elizabeth Stone’s quote and put my grandmom twist on it. Becoming a grandparent is incredible, but it leaves me feeling vulnerable. My heart continues to walk around outside my body in the form of grandchildren!
My husband and I began having troublesome dreams that started not long after our first grandchild was born. We both had several nightmares about our grandson being in harm’s way. Our grandson was perfectly healthy, had two great parents, and was watched constantly. Yet, we worried about him. What if he found a penny and swallowed it, or worse, a battery? What if he somehow got behind our car, and we backed over him? What if we dropped him? We both had a nightmare where a pool of water was involved. These were all ridiculous and had no basis, but we still worried.
Maybe our worries seemed silly, but we were gobsmacked by the enormity of our love for our grandchild. We knew we would love our grandchild. We had been eagerly anticipating becoming grandparents, but nothing prepared us for the all-consuming love we felt for this little creature that we hadn’t known very long. He changed our lives and took over all intelligent reasoning immediately. Before he was born, we couldn’t have imagined how much we would love him, but once he was here, we couldn’t imagine how we had lived without him! Loving him so much was wonderful but also left us feeling vulnerable.
Sometimes I think I worried more because I knew more. My husband had married me when my kids were 11 and 12, so he had little knowledge about babies. He had no idea what to expect or what to avoid with babies. He bowed to my experience. While I accepted the leadership role with our grandkids, it also meant my guard was always up. Once when we were at a festival, I went to the restroom and left 18-month-old Callister with my husband for maybe ten minutes. When I came out of the bathroom, I saw my husband with a big sack of popcorn about to feed it to our grandson. I stopped him, warning him about the dangers of toddlers eating popcorn, and proceeded to go down the list of what toddlers shouldn’t eat due to choking hazards. Ok, I may have overreacted a little. I’m sure Callister would have probably been just fine eating popcorn, but what if he wasn’t?! These are the thoughts that go through this grandmother’s mind when our daughter and son-in-law trust us to care for their precious children.
Callister started Pre-K a month ago, launching a new batch of concerns. I wasn’t prepared for these thoughts, so it caught me off guard last weekend when we asked him about his friends at school. He said, “I like to play with Joe and Charlie, but they don’t like to play with me.” Ouch! Why would anyone not want to play with my precious, smart, perfect blonde-headed grandson? I know I shouldn’t even give it a second thought, but there my heart is, walking around getting hurt by four-year-old boys on the school playground.
Being a grandparent has made me vulnerable. As much as we want to think love is free, it comes with a price tag we can’t use even a black American Express to pay. Love is paid for in moments that cause our hearts to hurt. Love is paid for in bad dreams and worries. Love is paid for in nights of insomnia. But what loves gives back is worth every minute of heartache. A life without love is hardly a life worth living. And the love of a grandchild is the sweetest love of all.
And just in case you’re worried, Joe and Charlie (whose names were changed to protect their tender little four-year-old hearts) asked Callister to play the very next school day. To twist another famous parenting quote to fit my purpose, “You’re only as happy as your unhappiest grandchild.” Today Sylvia and Callister are happy, so, therefore, I am also!