Monday, October 14, 2013
Granny for a Day
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I've talked a lot here about my kids as I've gone through the high school-into-college journey with my two oldest. This holiday weekend, I'm getting a sneak peek at something entirely unexpected: grandparenthood.
No, no one has shown up at home saying, "Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you." (Thank goodness! I've told my kids NO CHILDREN UNTIL AFTER GRAD SCHOOL.) But Youngest, who is in eighth grade, has brought Baby Think-it-Over home for the weekend. For those of you who haven't gone through this yourselves, Baby T-I-O (temporarily named Jacqueline by my daughter) is a realistic infant with a complicated set of gyros and programs stuffed into its little body. Ross calls it Robo-baby. Baby Think-it-Over wakes, cries, has to be fed with a bottle that its sensors register, changed with diapers that have a special triggering magnetic pad, burped and - very important! - must have its head properly supported. If the parent, who is wearing a special signaling bracelet, fails to respond in time or doesn't treat the baby properly, it registers as "failure of care" and the student's Health grade is lowered accordingly. When she brought it home, Virginia told me a cautionary tale of a classmate whose mother let the baby's head flop twice. "She got an eighty-seven, mom!" To my overachieving daughter, 87 might as well be a scarlet C.
It's been surprising how easy it is to start thinking of Robo-baby as the real thing. Last night we all went to the Homecoming game at Bonny Eagle High, and Ross unearthed our old baby blankets and hats to snug around Jackie in her carrier - and no, temperature doesn't register. It just didn't seem right to let her go out in only her sleeper. When Jackie woke up at five am, fussing, I showed Youngest my guaranteed-to-soothe Oklahoma Baby Chicken Bounce (you walk up and down the room, bouncing the baby in time and clucking to the tune of "Surrey with the Fringe on Top." Works a treat.)
Jackie has already performed her primary function - after being up from 1am to 2am with a hungry, fussy infant, Youngest has announced that as much as she loves babies, she definitely doesn't want to have her own anytime soon. This has led to some good conversations - about safe sex, choosing when to become a parent, and the importance of having a lot of support when you do have a child. It's been a lot of work. But it's also been, undeniably, fun. Demonstrating ways to hold and comfort the baby has given me a startling sense of being caught between the past and the future - I so clearly recall my own mother doing the same for me when I had my first newborn, and I could see myself in years to come, helping out when Youngest has a real baby (after grad school of course.) Ross and I have had some wonderful reminiscences, telling Youngest stories about our own experiences as novice parents. And it's been a pleasure seeing my daughter as a competent, caring (albeit temporary) mother.
All in all, Reds, it's making me quite look forward to grandparenthood (if not being called Granny. I'm thinking of 'Avia,' Latin for Grandmother. Or maybe the German Oma? Less pretentious, that.) Grandmother, Great-aunt, Doggy grammy - how do you feel about the role, Reds?
RHYS BOWEN: So funny, Julia. We went through the baby thing only in my kids' day it was not high tech. It was a real egg that Jane had to carry around in a basket without breaking it for a week. It was Meg the Egg. Unfortunately after the assignment was over Jane forgot about Meg the Egg until she was discovered in her closet, months later
HALLIE EPHRON: I had the great pleasure of staying with my daughter and her husband in April when they brought their Baby-THOUGHT-It-Over, and much wanted first child named Franny. To say it was exhausting does not begin to describe... to say it was heavenly also does not do it justice. And being Grandma is the icing on the cake. PS daughter is well into her 30s and has been in love with her wonderful husband since she was 15.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I am happily happily Grammy, and it's quite wonderful to hear two little guys call me that as their only indicator of who I am. You know? It's not "Hank who is my grandmother" or "the person we call Grammy." I AM Grammy. The fun part--and there are many! Is that I can watch from afar, and step in only when called for. Or called on.
I do think about how clueless my own young mother must have been. Wow. How do new parents do it? Out of love, I guess, when we're lucky.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: And I am happily child-free. Two other women are duking it out over preferred grandmother status and a VERY brief stint as Tanta Rose - which conjured up visions of Russian nesting dolls - have happily settled into Nanny Ro with second grand. The first just calls me Rosemary.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: My daughter had a sort of real-life Baby T-I-O. When she was fifteen, her best friend, who was two years older, got pregnant. My daughter told me several years later that for her, that was the best birth control imaginable! She saw how tough it was first-hand.
Since my daughter just got married, I'm happy to wait on the grandkids, but I hope I'll be some help when and if they do come along. I remember how terrifying it was being a first-time mom. And what do I want these so-far-imaginary grandkids to call me? My adored grandmother was "Nanny," so I might like Nana. But sometimes kids decide these things for themselves. My daughter called my mom "Amama," and it stuck.
PS Rhys, love your "Meg the Egg" story:-)
LUCY BURDETTE: Wow, Julia, sounds like that school exercise definitely did what it was supposed to do! I am looking forward to becoming a grandmother. My kids came as part of a package when I married John--they were 4 and 7 when I met them so I missed the baby stage. Somehow I was dubbed Bert and that has stuck. John thinks Grandma Bert would be cute, but I agree that often the kids end up naming the grandparents and that's fine too. My mother's mother (Lucille Burdette) was called Nana and my father's mother, grandma. She was kind of a tough little Germanic woman, not at all the prototypical soft granny. Nana on the other hand was very sweet and warm. But she died in her fifties of a heart attack so I never really got to know her. From watching my friends with grandchildren, I can see that this relationship can be very special for everyone involved. (In fact I've probably said this before, but when I was a therapist in training and we'd discuss a patient who by all rights should be much more screwed up than she was, everyone looked for the presence of a beneficent grandmother!)
JULIA: How about you, dear readers? Any grandkids? In your future? And have you ever found yourself grandparenting a Robo-baby...or Meg the Egg? Let us know, and one lucky commentor will get and advance reader copy or Net Galley of THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS!