Sure, sure, I get untold pleasure from spending time with my beautiful, smart and headstrong granddaughter. But really, the gift comes from the years of a smug, know-it-all teenager now finding himself trying to reason with a toddler. A headstrong toddler.
After the baby arrived, they solemnly partook of the "golden hour" - a time of skin-on-skin contact and quiet bonding before we grandparents were allowed in to see the baby. Fair enough. Soon after, a special nurse came in to give them lessons on sterilizing, hand washing and feeding the baby that included completely undressing the baby before said feeding - one can presume because it was a more organic state, I guess. Naked feeding? Did no one even care that it was January 1st and flipping cold outside? My son's mother-in-law and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. . .after all, what did we know? Later, when the baby started fussing even after a diaper change and feeding, I suggested a pacifier (or some clothes) but was met with blank stares. Oh, no. . .we are going to teach her to self soothe, they said. OoooKkkkk.
The morning after their first night as parents, we grandparents were enjoying a celebratory breakfast before heading back to the hospital when I got a text from my son.
Son: When are you coming?
Me: After breakfast. Why?
Son: We want someone to hold this baby because she won't stop crying and we've been holding her all night. We need sleep. And what's for dinner?
Me: What do you want?
Son: To go out
Me: Do you have a sitter lined up? We'd love to go out.
He didn't think it was very funny but when we arrived at the hospital, we noticed that the baby was no longer naked when being fed.
Several months later we visited again. I marveled at how big our little girl was getting and I also noted that she now had a pacifier attached to her outfit for easy access. I asked my daughter-in-law if the books had helped prepare her for parenthood. Her response was beautiful. "I feel like," she said, "all of the books should begin with the sentence, 'Throw this book away and listen to your mother.'" Yep, she gets it now.
They recently had their second child and I was fortunate enough to witness his birth. What a gift. I am fairly certain, though, that she would have welcomed a marching band into the room, so at ease was she.
Even better was the text I received from my son the following morning:
A photo of a sleeping baby -
Son: Lessons learned from First child: jammiees during feeding, pacis and bottles make for a happy baby and (relatively) well rested parents. #winningatparenting
The final act of complete parental graduation? When the granddaughter was introduced to the new brother she pulled the paci from her mouth and stuck it in his, spit and all. They have arrived.