Birthday Wishes

May 29, 2012

“So, what do you like most when grandma comes to visit?” “Presents,” my four-year old replied quietly. “And what do you like most about grampy?” “Tickles,” she giggled. Of course, presents are on her little mind. It’s her birthday tomorrow, and my parents are flying in to celebrate it with her.

Grandparents make birthdays special. My husband and I barely remember each others’ birthdays, let alone buy gifts for each other. We struggle through the kids’ birthdays, which are unfortunately just two weeks apart during the last month of school. Neither of us are great at hosting kids’ parties, but both our girls are relentless in wanting home parties. We scrambled this year, setting up scavenger hunts, having a movie, making our own pinata (the birthday girl loved it. We were embarrassed), and leading, yet another, birthday parade down our street. Yes, it all worked out, but we were exhausted.

Maybe because they are not planning and hosting the party, but their grandparents are better at really celebrating a birthday. GIfts were discussed, purchased and wrapped in advance. And a friend of the grandparents sent an electronic card with singing animals. My daughter also received a silly card with a ballerina kitty (Best Card Ever) and a frivolous little tank top that screamed fun.

So tomorrow, we will have a special dinner out, and open some gifts. I can’t help get into the spirit of things, so I am going to spray whipped cream on her AM pancakes. I feel a little sorry for her, since she wanted to go to a hot dog stand for her birthday dinner. We nixed that but promised her dessert. It should be great.

MMMMMM. Delicious

Maybe it’s the cough from last week’s cold that keeps hanging on, the lousy preschool drop off this morning that made me wonder if kindergarten really is in my daughter’s future, or the prospect of balancing kids and job when school lets out in just two weeks. But something set me off at Target yesterday in the nut and candy aisle, and the next thing I knew, I had eaten an entire pack of Red Vines licorice before we even got to the checkout. My daughter was in mild shock.

This reaction comes directly from a gene from my mother. As a kid, I remember her regularly sneaking a caramel from the open bins at the supermarket. I was always a little surprised. Not only did she not pay for it – I did pay for my Red Vines- but it was so contrary to our seventies, low-sugar, carob-laced diet. Was she undermining all of the lessons about health she had taught us, the years of wheat bread, unpeeled apples, and zucchini pizza?

As a mom, I now know she taught me instead that there are times to break the rules. When the lights get too bright at Target, it’s a little hot, your kid has asked for gum way too many times, an organic rice cake isn’t going to cut it. So you have a little treat to help you make it to the cash register. And your kid realizes that you don’t collapse immediately when you ingest a glug of red dye mixed in with corn syrup, even though I vaguely remember telling her a few years back that this type of candy makes you sick and unhealthy.

So that’s what happened. And I have a fantastic mom. She showed me all the right things to do and how to do them. But then she let me in on the secret that the world won’t stop spinning when you mess up. I hope to send the same message to my kids.

Happy Mother’s Day!

And yes, I made that tie
It’s 6.30AM and I am sipping coffee, listening to birds chatter, and clicking on fun links about summer sandals and sinkholes (the latter fascinate me.) Yes, I can hear my kids rustling upstairs. But this morning, I don’t need to sprint upstairs to see how they’re doing. Grandma and Grandpa came to visit from New York to see my girls’ dramatic performance of 101 Dalmatians, and I couldn’t be happier.

A visit from grandparents is the best. Built-in daycare, giggles galore, complete spoiling. My kids are so thrilled to see them. My 4 year old even offered her spare duckie to them. Of course, they sweeten the pot by toting some gifts along that the girls anticipate. But I think it is their rapt attention to each child that is the main appeal. And Grandma isn’t also trying to clean the house, prepare dinner, sort mail or write a blog, so rarely loses her temper.

I have always known instinctively that my kids should spend time and build a strong relationship with their grandparents. In the first 2 years of my oldest daughter’s life, we made 14 trips by plane and car to visit grandparents, and great-grandparents, to begin this relationship. We have not yet experienced a moment when my children were shy or reticent with either set of grandparents. Even as babies, they both seemed comfortable in their arms. (Although, as my cousin recently reminded me, my second child was so big at 6 months that her great-grandmother could barely hold her).

My instinct may be more than just a notion. There is more and more research about the beneficial role grandparents play in a child’s life. Relationships with people from different generations appear to have positive effects on kids, including building empathy and self-esteem. And it makes sense that an extra person in a child’s life willing to give ‘unconditional love’ is a very good thing.

But I think I am the one enjoying their visit the most. After coffee, I’ll take a hike with a friend, do some work, and even step out this evening for a small gathering. All knowing that my kids are in good hands, happy as clams, and being loved.

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