Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I'm Jealous of the Other Grandma

I'm jealous of the other grandma.

Not every day mind you. Most days I'm quite happy with my role as the everyday, hands-on grandma.

But on a Friday at the end of another long week of mealtime debate, sisterly squabbles, diaper blowouts, and relaying three little girls from my house to other destinations, when the two oldest girls are excited about an overnight with their other grandma, I have to be honest. I'm a little jealous.

I know if she were being honest, she's probably jealous of me sometimes as well. I know if the roles were reversed I would be. It's nothing against her, because she's a wonderful nanny. It's just that she's more the grandma I would have expected to be, the cool nanny, the fun nanny.

Yes, I treasure my time with three little girls and there is a lot to be jealous for in my week. It's not all tantrums and potty trips and meltdowns (usually theirs) and who really slapped who. There's a lot of time just to soak up watching three little girls learn how to be sisters and play together, a lot of warm hugs and sweet sticky kisses, a lot of "I love you"s.

But sometimes there is so much it overwhelms me. Squeezed in among the things we have to do on a day to day basis and the schedule of meals and naps and taking care of my own business, the things that I always imagined doing seldom take place.

But when I stop and take a deep breath, I realize I'm not really jealous of Nanny either. Like me she fills a totally unique spot in the lives of three little girls that we both love. Because we are unique and different women, we balance one another. Between the two of us, we should be able to provide guidance and a good role model whatever kind of young women the girls grow into.

The other grandma that I'm really jealous of exists only in my mind where the perfect grandma lives. She no more lives in Boone, where Nanny spent the evening dealing with a wild boy in addition to two little girls, one of whom didn't sleep well, than she does at my house. My jealousy isn't directed at her, it's all about not being, every day, who I'd like to be and when I let it, those expectations for grandmotherhood can be quite depressing.

That other grandma is full of endless patience. She never loses it and throws away the crayons just because they've been broken into half inch pieces and poured out on the floor for the baby for the umpteenth time. No, she comes up with some clever craft and melts them into window hangers for her grandchildren.

She never says I can't when one of her grandchildren asks for anything. No, she finds some way to do it or convince the child it doesn't need to be done. And I'm sure she would never let the baby cry to be picked up because she had her hands full doing something else.

She prepares a healthy, colorful, tasty meal for every occasion that the children sit down to eat. The children, of course, eat it without getting it all over them or complaining, because the food is that perfect. She never relents and feeds them a lunch of pepperoni slices, cheese, crackers, carrots and baby food for dessert because they're hungry and she is going to cook a real meal for dinner. She never despairs because those crackers are eaten in tiny nibbles like a mouse, leaving them everywhere. She doesn't have to wonder if they are eating enough.

The other grandma entertains the older children with some wonderful craft every day and the children never color on the windows, or use markers on each other, or put glue in their hair.

If she feeds her grandchildren cookies for snack, they're homemade and fresh from the oven, every time. And the children help make them without throwing flour all over the kitchen or fighting over who gets to add the next ingredient.

When potty training, she never has to suppress the urge to treat them like a puppy and, just once, rub their nose in it. She's endlessly patient and knows exactly when a little one needs to make a potty stop. She never scolds a child who has been potty trained off and on for using her panties again. I'm sure she wouldn't let that child take a shower and clean herself up, even if that was finally the concept that made it all click for her.

She never has a dirty house, a harsh word, or a jealous thought about anyone either.

She never finishes a day tired and feeling vaguely guilty that she wasn't all she wanted to be for the three most precious people in her life.

But maybe, just maybe, she doesn't load a baby into a backpack and take three little girls and a kite into a dirty tobacco patch where they don't manage to fly the kite, but between the dirt and the kite's antics they're all entertained and happy for a while in the wind, and tired and dirty later.

Maybe she doesn't have a kennel full of dogs and let the 4-year-old help feed them and clean cages, because that might make a bigger mess than it eliminates. Who am I kidding? There will be food everywhere and at least one argument about who carries which bowls and feeds who.

Maybe she doesn't know to tell them about the different kind of tooth marks they find in an apple, or the tracks on the side of the road. Maybe they wouldn't go for walks in the woods and get scratched and dirty and carry leaves and nuts into her perfect house. Maybe she would avoid having to say no to carrying a preschooler, by not putting herself in that situation.

Maybe there's a lot her perfect world doesn't embrace as well, because it's too messy or just not part of her experience.

So when I find myself being jealous of the other grandma, I'll take a deep breath and remind myself that my granddaughters' other grandma isn't her either. That the other grandma who makes me feel less than what they need exists only in my head and not in theirs.

Whatever our successes of failures, we love the babies in our lives and the grandmas they have are perfect just as they are. Both of us. And even on bad days, when I've lost my cool or felt like a failure, there are moments of sunshine and forgiveness in a little girl's smile.

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