Becoming a Grandparent
Posted in ChicagoNow, February 7, 2014
Over the span of almost 11 years, my job description evolved from being the Founding Director of Cherry Preschool to being a consultant and communications coordinator to being a blogger and writer. Through all of these life changes, my identity as Gramma never wavered. There is no greater joy than this job description.
THING ONE AND THING TWO
When I first became a grandmother, it was a double treat. At 2:30 pm and 2:34 pm on May 1, 2003, two beautiful little girls were born. The only way to describe how I felt when seeing them for the first time is that my heart melted. I was hooked for life.
No one expected two girls. The collective psychic powers of the entire family suspected at least one boy, and my husband and I spent the time anxiously waiting in the hospital lounge planning a bris. It’s probably a good thing they were girls because we never agreed on the best way to do it. The only complication was our children never agreed on a second girl’s name. Thus, Daniella, who was born first, had a lovely long name. In the tradition of one of my favorite children’s books, Tikki Tikki Tembo, her slightly younger sister was stuck with the ignominious title of Peanut (for her small size) or Baby B until her parents finally chose the name Tessa, which suited her perfectly.
There was a grand plan for managing to care for twins following a c-section. Everyone suggested hiring a doula. I had never heard of such a thing, but since I also had a full time job, it seemed like a good idea. Turns out the doula loved babies, but she didn’t like dishes, laundry, or taking care of a new mom very much. For $27/hour she rocked each baby constantly, even when she was sleeping peacefully. On the other hand, she told my daughter (who was on stair-climbing restriction) to get her own lunch and she left dirty dishes in the sink. She had no idea how to help with the nursing idiosyncrasies. In short, she was nice but not much help. This made me feel wise, as I concluded I would make a better doula and have a new future profession for my retirement years.
The departure of the doula seemed manageable at first. Since Monday was a lighter workday for me, my daughter punted for the morning and I used my last half-personal day to come over for the afternoon. I also arranged for the daughter of one of my friends, a former nanny and recent college-graduate-with-nothing-to-do-yet, to come the rest of the week. After she left, my daughter thought she could make it. Our plan was for me to come over for lunch and again after school until she could get the hang of nursing two babies at once and recovered from her c-section. While I was still Executive Director of Cherry Preschool, it was only 5 minutes away and our day was over by 3:00. I will be forever indebted to my colleagues who closed the school for me, one of the many perks of working in a family-friendly, all-female environment.
Day one of this new plan: At 11:20 at work, I received my first summons, “Mom, come now!” I arrived within 10 minutes to find my daughter nursing Daniella with Tessa screaming in her crib. Of course, the minute I picked Tessa up, she stopped. Who says you can’t spoil a baby? But that was my job and my pleasure, so I cuddled Tessa (and also changed a yucky diaper) while she waited for her sister to finish. I left with all three of them well fed and napping – another fire put out.
What I learned from my first grandma experience was that being an in-town, hands-on grandmother of twins meant many more SOS calls at work. My favorite was the one in which my daughter saw a bird in her house and closed herself into her bedroom with one baby, only to discover the door had jammed. I frantically sped there from work, fearing the bird would be attacking the grandchild who was alone in her crib, picturing Hitchcock’s The Birds. After I rescued everyone and called an exterminator, reality sunk in. Grandma was a job at least as demanding as my job as a preschool director. To give both the attention they deserved meant to make tough choices, and to short change one or the other. So I went with my heart and chose to cut back on my job at the preschool. I never regretted this choice.
Becoming a part time preschool administrator was the right decision for me and my family. I was smitten times two and ready to make "grandmother" the job that came first.