Saturday, October 13, 2012

Small Things

"We can do no great things -- only small things with great love." -- Mother Teresa
Our town library sponsors a story hour for toddlers each week.  On Tuesday morning, I buckle my little granddaughter, Emma, into her car seat and we head off to the library to meet her other grandma and her cousin and enjoy story hour together.  It is a lovely little program, with songs, books, and free play.  As I look around the room, I notice that there are other grandparents there each week with their little ones.  In fact, everywhere I go, I am seeing more and more grandmas and grandpas who have taken responsibility for the daily care of their grandchildren while parents work.
Life today is far more complicated than when I was a young mother.  It is financially impossible for most mothers to stay home with their children now.  For many parents, both paychecks combined barely cover the necessities of life.  The cost of day care is another added burden, and the question lingers in the minds of many of us -- do we want these precious little ones in the hands of strangers for a large percentage of their days during these critically important formative years?
And so, we have a new generation of grandparents who spend their days caring for these beloved "children of their children."  One grandmother I have met drives an hour each way twice a week to care for her three grandchildren on the days her daughter works.  A very young-looking great-grandmother has cared for her two little granddaughters several days a week since they were babies.  As I dropped my little grandson, Luke, off at preschool the other day and walked back to the car with Emma, another grandma stopped me to talk, saying how blessed she felt to be able to truly enjoy these days with her grandson.
I have cared for each of my three little grandchildren since birth -- now Alivia is in kindergarten, Luke is in preschool five mornings a week and will enter school next year, and  Baby Emma is eighteen months old.  The time has passed quickly.  The physical stamina required has been tough on this aging body -- by the time I have returned home and prepared supper, I am falling asleep in my chair.  However, I have never regretted for a moment my decision to take care of these precious children.
We live in a society very different from the gentler times of my growing up years.  It seems to me that the world is a colder place where technology trumps civility, and financial success trumps quality of life.  As a grandmother, I can pass on some of the values that I see disappearing from our world -- honesty, empathy, an appreciation of our natural world, a broader definition of personal success.  My grandchildren are talkers and thinkers.  We have lively conversations on everything, and their questions are challenging.  I would not want a stranger answering these questions.  I cherish the bond we have formed.  Alivia and Luke cherish the bond they formed through four years of being together every day -- they are closer than most cousins -- almost like brother and sister. 
I feel hopeless at times in this technological world where greed and the hunger for power seem to have become the norm; kindness and contentment are seen as weakness.  There is nothing I can do to change the world, but I can, in my small way, try to instill in my grandchildren a sense of self-worth that will serve them well as they navigate through life in this cold world. 
This trend towards "Grandma Day Care," will be a tremendous force in shaping the lives of our young children.  Instead of competing for the attention of a day care worker, these children are receiving the attention of a person who loves them exactly as they are, and is devoting her days to them.  What could be better than this!
Of course, a mother at home with them is always a child's first choice.  Luke reminded me of this yesterday as we drove home from school.  He said, "I wish Mommy could retire, so she could be home with me all the time."  And then, because he doesn't want to hurt my feelings, he quickly added, "But you could still come over to see me, Grandma."  And so, as we grandparents work so hard to provide a secure and loving environment for these little ones, we also know that we are not Mommy, but I believe we are the best substitute. 

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