So, Friday this week will be a big day for my family. My daughter and her husband are hosting a fish fry with fireworks. They will reveal the sex of our forthcoming grandchild, presumably via pink or blue explosions. I’m excited, of course, and anxious to know – not that it matters because I will love the child regardless of gender.
It has been eleven years since my daughter gave birth to our precious granddaughter, Jaycie. Jaycie expresses enthusiasm for becoming a sibling but also seems to be reserved. I’m sure she is constantly listening to her mother’s explanations of what is happening and trying to make sense of the whole reproductive process. Still, at 62, I can still barely wrap my own head around it.
So much hope is pinned on these little beings. I hope for this child’s health, well-being, happiness, security, self-esteem, education, safety, and a bright future. But I also hope for a close relationship, as I’ve had with Jaycie. There will never be another Jaycie. Her birth was life-changing not just for her mother but for her grandpa and me.
There isn’t a day I don’t think of her a million times and talk to her in my head. And my husband, who never had children, never spent time around them, and was skeptical he could relate to a child, is putty in her hands. They share an exceptional bond that has been beautiful to watch. We had the great fortune of being very involved in the first four or five years of Jaycie’s upbringing. This meant the world to me because I worked full-time as a young mother and had to leave my daughter with babysitters and daycare centers. I missed her first steps, first words, and first tooth and wept every time I’d pick her up, and a caregiver would relate the news of her significant growth achievements. Being able to help watch Jaycie enabled me to experience what I missed with her mother. I got to be mother and grandmother at once; it was a golden time.
I already know that things with this new grandchild will be different. My daughter and her family live about an hour away. She and her husband are busy people with multiple jobs and large property to maintain. Jaycie is now in middle school and active in dance classes, 4-H, and raising pets.
Our new grandchild will go to daycare during the day. I’m sure evenings and most weekends will be a flurry of activity for their family, making it challenging for Tom and me to have bonding time with the new baby.
Even though I accept that things with this grandchild will be different, I still think about how we will grow close and how that might happen. I was very close to my grandparents. One set of grandparents lived nearby, and I saw them every week or so. The others lived in Iowa, and I only saw them about every three or four months. Even so, I felt a bond with them as well. My brothers and I grew close to our distant grandparents by staying with them for a week each summer – happy times about which I’ve previously written.
One way this new grandchild and I can bond is through books. So I will make sure this child always has books to enjoy. When I see him or her, I will always make a point to read a book. I will give a book for every birthday and holiday. And when my grandchild comes to my house, I will always have wonderful books available, and we will make trips to the library or local bookshop.
Sharing books has been among the many ways we’ve bonded with Jaycie. And a love of reading is a gift my family gave to me. My paternal grandparents gave me and my brothers our father’s and aunts’ old series sets of The Hardy Boys, The Box Car Children, and Nancy Drew mysteries. Summers were spent devouring these. And my maternal grandparents gave us an old set of encyclopedias which I loved combing through, reading about fantastical things. Mom always signed us up for the library’s summer reading program. And we also had the weekly ritual of my father reading us the comics page from the Sunday paper. I loved sitting on his lap, studying the comics, and listening to him do the characters’ voices.
Books spark imaginations and open doors to thinking, understanding, innovation, and possibilities. Planning for a baby, of course, requires purchasing diapers, outfitting nurseries, and lining up a pediatrician and childcare. But I think we also need to plan on providing books from day one in a child’s life. I suspect I will become close to this new grandchild in several unforeseen ways. But, yes, definitely, there will be books that bind us. There has to be.
In keeping with this month’s theme of babies, I’ve reviewed a series of books on a sibling relationship by Lori Nichols that you can read about under Recommended Reads. And under Activities, you will find a matching worksheet on animal baby names. I made some fascinating discoveries researching animal baby names which I plan to develop a manuscript about. For example, a baby platypus is called a puggle, and a baby puffin is called a puffling. What fun. Who knew? Enjoy!