Before I had grandchildren I could never have imagined the kind of love you feel for them. Before I had grandchildren I thought the most intense love is the one a mother feels for her child. How could it be otherwise? The creature is literally your own flesh and blood whom you’ve carried around in your innards for 9 months! Before I had grandchildren I thought I knew all there was to know about love.
Little did I know a brand new world of love was in wait for me. When my first grandchild was born, I was filled with a new kind of love, a celebratory, prideful, giddy, deeply satisfying, healthy, hearty kind of love. One you want to go tell it on the mountain. One you want to announce to the whole world. So much so I changed my license plate to METSMAMA, which means grandma in Armenian.
My first granddaughter was an model child. From the beginning she ate well, slept well and seldom cried. So much so that around one year of age her mom suspected there’s something wrong with Lexi’s nerve endings! Which there wasn’t, of course. She was just a trooper. She had her fair share of falls, but rarely ever cried. I kept telling my daughter, “Wait until you have a real child. This one is a dream.” I was always very close to Lexi. She was very easy to love: loving and eager to please.
Although I knew from experience that no two siblings are alike, regardless of age or gender differences, I was expecting Lexi’s sister to be –at least somewhat—like Lexi and my relationship with her to be similar to mine and Lexi’s. Lo and behold, this was the “real” child. Shy and temperamental, Elise would hide behind her parents’ legs when I entered the room. She wouldn’t make eye-contact, wouldn’t react to the sweetest coaxings I could muster and would practically turn her back on me. She was also a screamer and a crier, who made up for all the shortfall of crying Lexi had created.
It took a couple of years of sustained trying to get her to acclimatize to me. And it was mainly due to Lexi that it happened. Ever the faithful sister, Lexi would refuse to go places without Elise. But because Lexi loved coming to our house, she would convince Elise in her 4-year-old logic and Elise’s 2-year-old vocabulary that it would be fun to go to our house. And Elise took her lead.
Do I love Lexi more than Elise? I don’t think so. Elise has her own way of profound loving, craving physical contact –that has now extended to me—and need to spend one-on-one time, which is infinitely satisfying. Would I have tried as hard to win her love and trust if she wasn’t my granddaughter? No way, Jose.
It amazed me that I, generally and proud and aloof woman, put in so much time and effort to win a child’s love. I had never done that before for anyone in my life. People either liked me or didn’t. And I was lucky that many people did, and I never lacked true friends. Even in my teenage dating years, I never tried to get someone’s love and attention. That was just not me.
But Elise wasn’t a friend, or a romantic prospect. She was my granddaughter. The love I had for her –where does this endless love come from, I’d like to know—was a different kind of love. It was like a precious gift handed to me by God, life, or my child –it doesn’t matter—that I had to take very good care of. And I tried my best to do that.
Now Lexi and Elise, 6 and 3.5 fight to sleepover at our house and can never get enough time with us.
My third granddaughter, Isla, is another different story altogether. Vivacious, loud, often outgoing and demanding, she is an only child, and extremely possessive of her mother. “My Mama” is her motto. She might play with me, or do me the favour of letting me feed her, but she never, for one second forgets who her “mama” is, or that she’s absent. Although on occasion she has slept over at our house, once for 5 days in a row, and we have tried our best to make her happy, it hasn’t been enough for her to get comfortable with us or me.
But by now I have learned my lesson. My granddaughters are different people, and regardless of whether or not we find it easy to like each other, regardless of the amount of time and effort needed to get our bond cemented, I’m willing to go all the way –no comparisons, no complaints, to judgments—until they have no choice but to love me back.
My dad used to say “It takes two to tango” and I used to agree with him.
The love of my grandchildren has made me dance all the time. Sometimes with them, and sometimes by myself.