This year, my daughter invited us to spend Christmas with her family on the southwest coast of BC. I was thrilled! My two grandsons are four years old and one and a half years old -- perfect ages to experience the magic of Christmas. We rented a little house in a resort community not far from my daughter's place and spent two days driving here though nasty snowstorms.
Horrible blizzards on the way.
We brought both pets along, a dog (Kate) and a cat (Oliver). We have travelled with the dog before, mostly in the truck and camper, but bringing Oliver has been a bit of an experiment. So far it has worked out really well. They are both happy to have come along on the trip, and have settled in well and behaved themselves. I guess they know that the alternative would have been to stay in a kennel, not their favourite place.
Oliver making himself at home.
I am really looking forward to Christmas, as not only will I get to spend time with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons, but also my son is living here and attending university at present, and my middle daughter who lives in a nearby city will come stay with us for a few days at Christmas. It will be the first time in a few years that I will spend Christmas with all three of my (now adult) children, AND the first time ever to spend Christmas with both of my grandsons.
Rob's two kids and my three all have been adults for quite some time. They have busy lives and we are so proud of all of them. Of course, those busy lives and my career have meant that we have all ended up living in different places, for the most part far away from each other. We don't have the chance to see each other on a week-to-week basis, but usually just for short, intense visits. I love seeing my kids and sometimes feel sorry for myself that I don't have much time with them. One never really stops being a parent.
I remember when my first a child, my oldest daughter was born. Those wise eyes, rosebud lips, chubby cheeks, and black hair -- it was love at first sight! Although I had little experience with babies and had never played with dolls, suddenly I was the proudest, most possessive parent on earth. When my second daughter was born, it was love all over again. She was the most cuddly, happy baby ever, with thick blond hair that stood up straight and an old soul's blue eyes. And then my dear son was born, calm, long, and skinny (in contrast to my first two chubby babes). He was very observant and content. He was a boy who bum-scooted around the kitchen, and figured out how to open the cupboard and help himself to cheerios (breakfast cereal). He was a kindhearted boy and now is a fair minded, kindhearted man.
When I look at my adult children today, I see their day-to-day lives and dilemmas superimposed over my memories of them at each developmental stage of their early lives. That is an annoying thing about parents -- they persist in thinking about the past. I know that when I was a young adult, and even a middle-aged adult, my attention was focused on the present and the future. It is only now as I am on the threshold of my senior years that I have become more nostalgic and interested in the past.
Becoming a grandma is reminiscent of that first experience of becoming a mom. Those tiny little humans are born into the world with their whole futures ahead of them. I love them with the same intense passion that I loved my own babies. I am very lucky, because I get to be grandma to my children's children, and also to Rob's children's children.
Yet being a grandma is different than being a mom. I am not the parent, and it is not up to me to make parenting decisions. I am only around from time to time, not every day, and each visit is a chance to build my relationship with my grandchildren a little more. At the same time I try to offer whatever help I can to their parents who are busy and enmeshed in complicated lives. Sometimes it is not an easy balance to be present, to spend time with the grandchildren, to help out, and to also spend some one-to-one time with my adult kids, without being intrusive, neglectful of my spouse's needs, or ignoring my own needs and boundaries. I sure have noticed that I no longer have the same energy level that I used to -- being with small children can be exhausting.
A walk on the beach with Kate.
So, we feel very fortunate to be staying for a whole month and to have a rented house during this Christmas visit. We will be able to experience some great family time, and stretch it out over a period of weeks, rather than trying to cram it all into one short intense period. It also gives Rob and me some quiet time to spend just with each other, walking on the beach, sitting in front of the fire, or going out for a romantic dinner. It gives my daughter's family some breathing space, without feeling the pressure of having guests in their home for an extended period. And, as it is a vacation for us, we would like to make a few little excursions while we are here, visit some friends, and possibly go skiing. But, the highlight will be spending Christmas with my kids and grand-kids!