My two boys and their wives had not been united under one roof since Thanksgiving 2019, and now there was a new baby to add to our reunion who would celebrate her first birthday during their much anticipated visit. So much had happened in the year and a half of quarantine and pandemic that kept us sequestered like so many. The drama of what if’s about uniting from our cross country homes in a central location as a group was put on hold for good reason and what remained was a lost year of connection and an unremarkable stretch of nothingness with a nod of gratitude for FaceTime. There would be gaps in our shared lives together that we can never recoup, but at least Bill and I had made it out west to see the new baby 3 times and our other kids a few times too.
So, when my son told me he would bring his family to us for his 6 week Paternity leave I was beyond thrilled and moved into overdrive Mom-gear. Internet capacity was upgraded, desks were purchased as my daughter-in-law was in full work mode and our 35 year old family home needed a face lift. Consumed with making this trip easy for these kids who had endured so much, I was thrilled to burn a hole in my credit card. .
King beds replaced kids’ beds, stained linens and old towels were tossed. The high school carpet with remnants of art projects plastered between the worn out threads was replaced with white plush wall to wall. A master suite for them was created and the floor futon in the connecting room donated to make way for a nursery. The baby book and baby shoes and favorite first sweaters came out of storage.
The kids made it easy with a list of what was needed for the baby and once again, gentle baby detergent and diapers, pails, and vaseline were back on the our shelf.
The empty fridge was filled with prepared meals and overflow. I had been waiting for this moment never really believing it would ever happen.
“We’re here. Hi Mom.” I raced to the front door and there was my son and daughter-in-law holding their beautiful baby like it was the most natural visit ever. It was like they were casually stopping by but then I glanced past them to the car full to the brim with luggage and baby stuff. They had come off a 7 hour drive, their first big drive with the baby. So, as they walked through that front door with the cooing noises of my darling grandchild a rush of adrenaline shot through my veins and I offered to watch the baby so they could get some rest and get cozy ASAP.
Seamlessly, my son handed me that gorgeous little girl and as I looked into his eyes with gratitude, I caught a flash of his Dad.
“You look just like your Dad, when he walked through this front door holding you.”
He smiled and hugged me tightly. And we were reunited as familiar comfort and connection worked its magic.
And then reality hit. My world and Bill’s shifted for the next 6 weeks in ways we never could have imagined. In came the carriage, pack and play, toys and diapers. Every shelf in our fridge was filled with fresh veggies and the high chair was strapped to the kitchen counter.
We watched the kids claim the space to make this house their home and as the lentils and yogurt and avocado dripped onto the floor between my granddaughter’s perfect little fingers, we learned what babies do all over again.
The days passed quickly measured by meals and naps and there was a rhythm to the chaos defined by this beautiful baby and her schedule. How could one little child become the center of our lives and our home so fully and keep us running? But this is parenthood and we had forgotten. Daily grocery store runs were routine, and can your grab this or that kept me on my toes. But, when I got the text, “could I take the baby so we can sleep,” I jumped at it. Time with my little grand, Nana bonding time, was what I wanted most of all. And I got plenty of it.
And adding to that joy, my kids thanked us for helping and it felt good to be able to help and be appreciated. And so it went over the next 6 weeks. More family came. Dinners every night with their friends, our friends, our family. We forgot how exhausting new parenthood could be as my husband and I watched in awe at the endless energy these kids put out. Sleepless and hazy Bill and I wiped the counters and vacuumed and played and crawled and remarked that parenting is definitely for the young.
But being a new Nana required some adapting and a crash course in NANAhood had begun. Ever the student I learned to say less and say yes, and whatever works for you guys. My running commentary about how we used to do it or suggestions zipped tight. It was their turn. They knew best.
And as the matriarch of my family, used to being in charge, I stepped back and waited for instructions. This visit is what I had dreamed of so once I understood their schedule I managed to get in my early morning exercise so I could be ready when needed. I spent a lot of time watching —it all looked so different from how we had raised our kids and so much more labor intensive. But this generation is researched and prepared. We had one or two books to consult, they have google and easy to access parenting groups. We knew way less and just plowed ahead winging it but they are equipped with every detail that could ever be needed. We unscrewed jars of baby food and served up noodles with jarred red sauce, but not the kids. My daughter in law created masterpieces for the baby of organic foods with spices that could have earned Michelin stars.
And as all this activity unfolded in our home, I watched my little grand grow and grow over the 6 weeks. And I felt like the luckiest Nana ever.
This was the first time we had TIME together and our conversations felt organic rather than rushed. It was a gift for us all.
And then 6 weeks later, they left. We said our goodbyes and collapsed. That first evening alone, after a meal of poached eggs and toast, Bill and I hit the couch with a bag of ginger snaps and Chardonnay and watched Jean Smart in The New HBO series Hacks. It reminded me of settling in after an all nighter after finishing my last final exam, knowing I had gotten a pretty good grade. There was plenty to review about how it had all played out, but there was no brain power to do so. So Bill and I watched and laughed and napped and woke up and laughed and napped and woke up. And this catatonic behavior continued for the next 2 days. We admittedly were wiped out.
“Pleeeeeaaaase don’t fill the calendar with social dates,” my husband pleaded.
“I need to see friends. I haven’t talked to my sisters in a month. It’s already mid-July and last I looked it was May 30th.”
But the truth was, we slept for 2 full days and have just began to re-emerge.
And now, just one week later, I called my son and said hopefully, “When are you guys coming back? I hope soon.” And I meant it.