I was unusually comfortable in a new Sunday school class I visited today and found myself popping off comments (nothing heady, just personal observations and such) throughout the discussion. As I was leaving the class pleasantries were exchanged and several people mentioned how nice it was that I’d spoken up even though I was a visitor. I smiled and told them, only half-joking, that they’d probably have to zip my mouth shut after a while if I continued to attend the class.
One woman, a particularly affable lady who’d been active in the dialog as well, paid me a compliment saying that I appeared to be an intelligent person. She got my attention for sure; it’s not something I hear a lot. Then she had me. “What are you doing with it?” she continued. I held my breath and froze like a deer in the headlights. The only answer I could think of was nothing. Before I’d said much more than “uhhhh…,” she fired her follow-up question. “How are you using that gift?”
I’m aware of my God-given gifts and I know where I’m talented (and where I’m not). I am, as they say, without excuse. I should have been able to answer her questions with a quick picture of how I’m working, serving or contributing.
However, lately I’ve been moping around the house feeling like a drain on society. I don’t know if I’m depressed, reacting to the gloomy weather, or just being cranky. I do laundry, clean house, and occasionally cook a meal that requires more than 6 minutes in the microwave and a quick stir. My daughter-in-law tried to convince me that my getting the house clean was in fact a measurable accomplishment. I groaned in a way that had her back peddling quickly. I’m clearly not blooming where I’m planted.
This Sunday morning I got whacked with a proverbial 2×4 and reminded that God gave me certain talents and gifts that He expects me to use – maybe not in ways I’ve envisioned – over and above my Grandparenting role.
Like any father, God doesn’t want to hear me moan and complain that I’m bored and feel unappreciated. He wants me to get off my bum and do something.
I love when the kids call. This morning I got to talk with one of my sons during his commute to work – gotta love those Bluetooth phone connections! One of the things he said was that he really won the lottery when it came to grandmothers. And he did. Each of his grandmothers was a remarkable woman and as loving a grandparent as a child could ask for.
His remark made me think about how different I am as a grandmother.
My cousins and I would run excitedly to grandma’s kitchen cupboard that housed a dozen jars of homemade cookies, enough that each of us could find our favorite. Grandma was an awesome secret keeper and I could share with her all the things I would never tell my mom. We were kindred spirits. She kissed the back of my neck and I went home.
My mom had a toy closet where munchkins would dash to sort through a treasure-trove of Nana’s toys. She took the children one at a time for quality visits, went fishing, flew kites, made educational spots like the library and sea aquarium fascinating field trips, and made memory books with silly captions on the pictures. And then she hugged them tight and sent them home.
I want to be that kind of grandmother – but I’m not. Some days it makes me feel sorry for myself and other days it makes me just plain mad. I’m a little embarrassed to be jealous of grandmothers who get to enjoy that special relationship unfettered by the responsibilities of parenting. Don’t get me wrong, Mom would swat a kid on the behind if he misbehaved but discipline wasn’t the mainstay of her job.
When you laugh, sing, dance, and play as a parent, it’s a very different thing. There is something undefinable about the difference between a mother and a grandmother. And when Grandma has to cross that boundary and wear the hat that should be Mom’s, something gets lost. The grandkids don’t run in with excitement and anticipation. They’re just home.
My firstborn grew up as the middle child and my eldest was really the third child. It’s all a little Abbott and Costello and hard to explain without scribbling a family tree on the back of an envelope. There were biological children, adopted children and a plethora of foster children. Just about the time the last of those were moving out on their own, my husband and I adopted a high-risk infant — the son of little girl I’d adopted some 15 years earlier. And so started what I lovingly call the second litter.
When we married, my children were nearly grown and he was an avid sailor. There were plans to set sail in a 40 foot Catalina to the Caribbean with another couple for a much-needed dream vacation. Those plans were scuttled and replaced by jaunts to the park with a stroller.
Not wanting to raise an only child we prayed for the opportunity to either conceive or adopt another child. God rewarded us with a beautiful baby girl four years later. At this point I learned the true meaning of “be careful what you pray for.” The floodgates opened and we were blessed with two more adoptions within the following 15 months. Sailing and my career were replaced by a household with a kindergartener and 3 non-walkers. Two of those four adopted children had been our grandchildren. And so it began….