I have a tiny human.
She is sassy, she is proper. She is a ballerina and a dog bowl drinker. She is as much tantrum as she is mellow. Truly, she is a million and one surprises on any of my given days. Being physically present in her world reminds me of my predilection for tedium and solitary confinement, and yet moments away from her drive me into a vast little corner called crazy.
My first encounter with the tiny humans was in 1978. My mom, sister and I packed into Dad’s freshly polished, silver Oldsmobile and trekked 1,041 miles to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to be with my older sister and her husband for their big arrival. Dad drove straight through (except for the 58 minutes he let Mom drive so that he could sleep with one eye open). Seventeen hours in a car the size of a small yacht, 3 or 4 potty breaks, a burger or two, no iPads or iPhones or sensory appealing devices. Seventeen hours of easy listening radio and fuzzy AM station baseball commentaries, nothing but a book and a pillow and a glorious stretch of time, back in the days where imaginations roamed free because they had nowhere else to go. It was the best trip ever. Somehow the magical blend of Karen Carpenter, cold cans of Dr. Pepper and steel excitement in my Daddy’s brown eyes made me feel safe. Looking back, the world was just…well, right. I called it vacation, but for Mom and Dad, it was much, much more.
You see, this was to be their first encounter with their tiny human. It’s a peculiar moment, and it’s certainly an unprecedented moment. It’s that monumental moment of passage from Parenthood into Grandparenthood. And on January 10, 1978 Jennifer Ann made her way into our world and Mom and Dad made it to their destination. They were never the same.
I have kids of my own now, and they have each captured my heart. This place is…oddly familiar and strangely, different.
My younger, unadulterated dreams of being grown up drifted on puffy, pristine clouds with my perfect mate bringing me coffee every morning, a white (everything was white in this dream) picket fence protecting my playful, well-mannered children and our obedient, stick-fetching mess-free white collie (everything was also clean in this dream). Then life did its thing. It just happened. The honeymoon was over, we had no money, the dog pooped in the kitchen on repeat, the test came back positive and before I could finish throwing up they handed me a ball of red, screaming responsibility. And just like that I entered Imawreckhood. No manual. So sweet but a million times messier than the dog. I had to feed her 10-12 times a day. Twelve times a day! And then there was. You name it, there it was. Keeping the pantry full and the laundry done (ha! as IF). Potty training. Pick up your toys training. No pitching fits in Target training. Sleep in your own bed training. Don’t wipe your snot on the walls in the middle of the night training. Mounds and mounds of training. Sadly waving goodbye to sleep and eating out and movie date nights for years and years and years. I missed sleep the most.
Youth is well spent on the young.
Nevertheless, I did everything I could to keep the pendulum swinging toward rightness. I really did. For years. I decided that if I was going to be a mom, I was going to be a great mom. The kind of mom who bakes a cake every weekend and keeps the house company-ready at all times. A godly wife, a good friend, a loving sister, a daughter to make her Momma and Daddy proud. A pillar of respect in the church and in the community. Kind to everyone and a lover of Jesus. I tried. I really did. But boy oh boy, that pendulum sure did have a defiant gravitational pull of its own.
To be sure, I’ve screamed back, freaked out over stupid stuff that didn’t matter, forgotten to make dentist appointments, skipped Open Houses and Halloween, given them bad haircuts and bad food, said no when I should have said yes and yes when I should have said no, missed some of the most important years of their adolescence because I let grief and disillusionment take command of my choices. I know I did some things right in those tender years (God gives grace to the frazzled) but I could and should have done a lot of things differently. I wonder if that’s why, when I look into Gemma’s face, I see a 3 year old Lauren. But this time, I see differently. I see letting her bangs grow out and giving green beans a try. I see 2 Halloween costumes instead of one and formulate a quick wardrobe change plan into the scheduled festivities. I pay closer attention to ant piles in the park and want to hold her closer and rock her longer when she has a fever…and even when she doesn’t. Time is a truth teller to all things, and truth has whispered a lot of secrets into my ears over the years.
Wisdom is well spent on Grammys. Please keep spending, God.
Ah, how I’ve missed this tiny age, how I’ve missed this season of wonder! Today when my tiny human walks through the door, I’d like nothing more than to scoop her up and plant kisses on her face for hours on end, and just savor the magical moments, for tomorrow comes far too quickly. Savoring has a shelf life. She lets me for a few moments, and I will take it. I look at Gemma, and I see my sweet Lauren, all over again. With older and hopefully wiser eyes. I see second chances.
And now, Mom and Dad, I get it.
Here’s to next generations and many more tiny humans. Here’s to you, to all of you who have made it from Parenthood to Grandparenthood. It’s a sweet, beautiful place to be. We are blessed. Savor it.