Hallowed Hugs on my Autumn Visit
I just spent eleven days visiting my daughter in her bustling Midwest home, weaving myself into her daily life to join the family of five - Dad, Mom, 10-year-old son, 16-month-old son, and 6 month old dog, on their current Autumn adventures. Living five states away, I do not get to see my grandsons all the time so I want to make my limited time with them and their parents a time of connection and bonding. I was aware of being interested in actively listening to the inner worlds of each person in the family, helping out with household tasks and following the toddler around in his discoveries and play.
Baby smiles at everyone and people light up around him but it took five days before he felt totally comfortable around me, always preferring Mom first. By the end of my visit he was hugging my legs and resting his head on my chest as I sang him a lullaby. That feeling of warmth from his head on my chest feels like a glue that bonded me in love and now hurts, as I have to separate and leave him to go home.
We adults all listened to our ten year old’s anger and feeling of betrayal when he discovered Elf on the Shelf wasn’t real. I was so impressed with how his parents acknowledged and encouraged his feelings and then enlisted his ideas about how to handle Elf on the Shelf with his toddler brother at Christmases to come.
The more relaxed I got as I acclimated, the more cooking and baking I did, which everyone enjoyed. Mom and Dad got a few breaks as they trusted me to watch both boys and even got to go out together once as a couple.
I attended pumpkin carving in my grandson’s fifth grade class and the teacher warned the kids about knife safety. Holding a knife to help carve, I turned abruptly and punctured a short girl who was rushing past me. She grabbed her shoulder in pain. I was mortified. We checked her arm. No blood. No mark. In two seconds she said, “I’m fine” and gave me a hug. In another part of the classroom, my grandson cut his finger with a knife. Somehow, I figured it was my fault because I wasn’t standing right next to him. Teacher asked, “Do you want me to take him to the nurse, or will you?” As I walked him to the nurse he expressed fear that his finger would fall off. But some ointment and a Band-Aid did the trick and he was back carving and scooping pumpkin goop in no time. My grandson and I turned out to be the only two people who manifested the teacher’s fear of hazardous knife usage.
My daughter is very energetic, enthusiastic, organized and determined when getting things done to manage her household and other interests. I am amazed and picture her having 8 arms like an octopus as she juggles strollers, baby, diaper bags, packages, groceries, dog, musical instruments and sports equipment. I just wanted to help a little and keep up with her. One day we went straight from 10am to 5pm on errands and tasks, including a stop for baby to play at the park in 50-degree (cold for me) weather. All through Target I chased the toddler as he rushed through the store pointing and playing, while Mom shopped. By 5pm as we were checking out, I got dizzy and dizzier. So when we got home, I took a much-needed nap, feeling bad that I was unable to keep up the pace.
The ten year old is more interested in friends than Grandma most of the time, so it wasn't until the last few days that I could weave myself more into his world. We played two competitive games of checkers Saturday night and then we surprised the family by making and serving breakfast Sunday morning, pretending it was “Max’s Diner”, complete with a store sign, menu and bill. His “fluffy cheesy egg scramble” and my pancakes were a big hit. So when I left Sunday night, he gave me the warmest hug ever and said, “It feels like you just got here.”
Picking pumpkins to carve and sipping hot apple cider outside on a bench on a crisp, cold, fun day at a pumpkin patch with the guys.
Taking a baby dressed as Elmo trick or treating, where he rings doorbells and gives the candy back. Everyone laughing as the ten year old wobbled down the street trick or treating as a giant inflatable dinosaur.
Laughing at midnight with my daughter, between bursts of creativity while planning, designing, hacking and re-working patterns in her new passion of sewing.
Art: I helped create a Halloween ghost out of a paper plate and streamers at toddler story time at the library, while the baby mostly tasted the glue; my ten year old helped me draw the chalk art image for my last blog, “Do you want to go to Heaven?” (See vincentiaschroeterphd.com/blog)
The simple pleasure of opening my heart to these people I love, being present and sharing in their everyday life felt like hallowed time.