For six+ years we have shared a house with ED and the boys, allowing us to observe closely their development from children to teenagers. We anticipate being there as they mature to adulthood. They are part of the fabric of our lives every day, almost every minute. With their births, a boy-shaped hole opened in my heart, to borrow a phrase from Pascal. This is a hole dug in caliche, excavated with the love of parenting my own children, not to be filled except by intent and with resistance.
We have been apart for approximately three weeks as I find respite in Chicago. Blue Boy usually responds in monosyllables to my texts. I consider myself lucky if Mowgli replies with a poop emoji. Longing to fill the hole, I text Mowgli: Do you miss me? No response, but I have learned to be not disappointed.*
I sent the message to keep my foot in the door. I sent it to be sure that the grandma-shaped hole of which the boys are unaware does not fill in. My grandchild-shaped hole is in caliche. I worry that the grandma-shaped hole is in sand, easily consumed when the tide comes in. I sent the text so that someday when I can’t communicate, their hearts remember and yearn, “I miss you, Grandma.”
Children can’t and shouldn’t understand in what way and how much parents love them. The responsibility would be intolerable. Grandparent love is a different variety. Grandparents humor behaviors that would not be tolerated in their own children. My sister-in-law, always known for her strict dietary rules for her family, allowed her granddaughter ice-cream for breakfast!! Who is this lady?!
Sharing the house with our grandsons challenges us to balance parental controls and grandparental indulgence. After insisting that they clear their dirty dishes, I put away their shoes. An order to take out the trash is rewarded with an extra late night. Admonishment to stop running in the house is followed by ice cream for breakfast. Like the protective shell that forms inside a cactus after it is damaged, the grandma-shaped hole becomes more solid with each act, over time. Until it, too, is as irreversible as the grandchild-shaped hole.
*Today I received an immediate “yes” to my inquiry. Happy day!