By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Carole Townsend

(Not So) Common Sense
What is it about a grandchild?
By Carole Townsend

We’ve heard it from our friends for years, my husband and I. “Oh, just wait until you have grandchildren. There’s nothing like it,” they’d say, and we’d smile and nod, having no idea, really, what they meant.

We have four children, and neither of us could imagine another little one being around, certainly not one that we’d love anywhere near as much as we do our children. 

Two years ago, we were blessed to have our first (and to date only, but who’s nagging?) grandchild come into this world. My husband and I rushed to the hospital when we got the call. I’ll never forget seeing our granddaughter for the first time, all peach and pink and rosy, swaddled in that hospital blanket in the little bassinet. I reached out my arms and picked her up. She snuggled her little head into my neck just under my chin, and just like that, I was in love. 

When I finally let my husband hold her, I will never forget the look of love and protectiveness that I saw on his face. Just like that, he was in love. Then, our youngest daughter held the baby, talking and cooing to her, and she was in love. My son wouldn’t hold her because he was afraid he’d drop her or she’d break, but still I could see that he loved her, too. We had just met her, had never had a conversation with her, and we were hopelessly in love. I got it, sitting there in that hospital room. I finally got what our friends had been telling us about having grandchildren. They were right.

The baby was nine months old before our daughter decided that we could keep her overnight without losing her or worse, killing her. Amazing how they forget that we got four of them to their twenties without losing or killing them, but I understood. Is there anything deeper than a mother’s love for her child? If there is, I don’t know what it is. 

When word came that we were finally going to be allowed to keep the baby for an overnight visit, we were thrilled. Babies ‘R Us was thrilled, too, as we made a beeline for the store and bought a portable crib, high chair, car seat, walker, baby monitor and various and sundry other baby must-haves. Things have certainly changed in the past twenty-five years, with respect to these baby accessories. It took us quite some time to read all the safety information on each item and make decisions on which to purchase. Also, I had no idea that baby monitors had video capabilities these days. I’m not sure why, but that just blew my mind. They’re like tiny computers and truthfully, it took me a while to figure out how the thing works. We definitely sounded like grandparents as we listened patiently for our daughter to explain how to use all the new-fangled stuff.  I definitely felt like a grandma.

A nine-month-old baby is pretty easy to handle, though I do admit we were a little nervous, being out of practice and all. But their needs are few, if you think about it. They need to eat (formula mostly, and a few cute jars of baby food). They need to sleep (which they do on their own schedule, and “tough” if you don’t like it). And when they’re not eating or sleeping, they need interaction and stimulation. That’s my specialty. When she’s with us, I rarely put her down and am always talking to her. Our dogs are grateful for the break, no doubt. 

A couple of days of carrying a baby around all day, up and down stairs, can be hard on a YaYa, especially this one. With ailing knees, trick ankles and hips that complain much of the time, I admit that by the time her mom picked her up Sunday evening, I was exhausted. I had cheerios, peanut butter, Goldfish, and milk in my hair and down my back, but I felt a sense of accomplishment. We survived two days with the baby. And when I say “we,” it was actually “me,” since my husband’s involvement with her at that stage was smiling and talking to her from a distance, bribing her with his fancy watch so that she’d come near him. She was going through her “I’m afraid of men” stage then. It nearly broke his heart, and it nearly broke my back, but we survived.

Fast forward about a year and a half, and we are coming up on another weekend in which my husband and I get to have the baby for three whole days. We’re thrilled, and very excitedly planning three days’ worth of toddler activities. Our granddaughter’s mobile now, of course, at nearly two years old. Mobility changes things when a grandchild visits her YaYa and Poppy (that’s who we are to her, and I think it’s just adorable. I like being a YaYa, and my husband makes a great Poppy. But yes, mobility certainly changes the entire game. 

A two-year-old is fast.  Have you ever noticed that? All you have to do is blink, and they’ve scaled a tall building, or jumped into a swimming pool, or hotwired a car. I had forgotten how fast they are. At this age, though, our granddaughter uses her speed for good. Her favorite game is to run as fast as she can from me, to my husband, and back to me again, over and over. When she reaches us, we scoop her up and kiss her, then put her back down to run back the other way.  Delightful.

Oh yes, there is something about having a grandchild. What is it? Well, first and foremost, I believe that the child that our child brought into this world is family royalty. We love our daughter, so of course we love her child. Second, I believe that we see grandchildren as the ultimate do-overs. The regrets we have with respect to parenting (and oh, they are plenty) can be corrected with our grandchildren. And third, an innocent child, so full of wonder and laughter and awe, makes us all feel younger. A child lights up a home like nothing else can. 

Perhaps the best thing about having grandchildren is the way they look at you, the way they say “YaYa.” Our granddaughter knows that when she comes to our house, she’s in for fun. She’s in for undivided attention. She’s in for a weekend that’s all about her. Our girls watch me with her and ask, “Where were you when we were little?” Of course, they are telling me that I seem to be much more fun now than I was then. I tell them simply, “ I was busy being your mom.” 

They’ll understand someday. 

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth and newest book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, is slated for April 12 publication. It is the true tale of a crime that took place in Gwinnett County nearly 40 years ago. Her most recent book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a sidesplitting look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. Her first two books, RED LIPSTICK AND CLEAN UNDERWEAR (a book about our Mothers’ advice) and SOUTHERN FRIED WHITE TRASH (a hilarious look at the unique, charming and sometimes outrageous ways we Southerners conduct ourselves) earned Carole almost instant national fame, with her “unmistakable humor and hysterical honesty,” (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 2012). Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the southeast region, teaching writers’ workshops, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well being of the family. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.