” The best baby-sitters, of course, are the baby’s grandparents. You feel completely comfortable entrusting your baby to them for long periods, which is why most grandparents flee to Florida.” -Dave Barry
It’s a quote steeped in truth-and American culture. I used to joke that my grand kids would see my Mini Cooper passing on the freeway and say, “There goes a Mini Cooper. That could be Grandma.”
My female students in China would not think these jokes are funny. They all assume their mother’s will take over the responsibility of rearing their children after they graduate, begin working, and start a family. Thats the norm in their culture.
It was evident on campus. The teacher’s who had a child had at least one set of grandparents living with them. During the mornings when the kids were in pre-school learning English or French or both-and the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, the grandparents practiced Tai Chi, gardened, and bought ingredients for the evening meal-that they would cook.
|Grandparents and kids in the community garden on campus.|
When school ended around noon, they were outside, sitting on benches, gossiping with friends and neighbors while the kids played.
One of the teachers whose mother and father lived with her, told me, “I feel frustrated sometimes because my daughter seems to like my parents better than she does me. She certainly listens to them better. But it is the way it is.”
My students and I had many discussions about my life style. They were curious and intrigued about me, a woman of my advanced age- older than some of their grandmothers– living in China-on the other side of the world away from my family-my home.
“Who watches your daughter’s children?” they asked. Who helps them out when they need help? Wouldn’t they like for you to be there? Don’t you miss your family? Aren’t you lonely?”
” In America we have after school programs, summer camps, and day care facilities. They do fine without me. I spent many years being a mother. It’s not my job to watch my children’s.” I explained. I was adamant. I couldn’t see myself in that role. It’s not on my bucket list, in the game plan. Won’t happen.
Never say never.
Back in the states I went to my youngest daughters in South Carolina intending to visit a month or two before I continued on to California where my stuff is in storage and most of my friends are. ‘Welcome home.” she said, hugging me at the airport.
That was nine months ago.
As her husband moved out, I moved in. For nine months I’ve been the nanny, tutor, and basic domestic Gramma for my daughters’ two children ages six and nine.
|Ireland with flowers for garden|
We shop and garden together. We’ve cooked, discussed sex, divorce, racism, and our ancestry. We don’t always agree. I’d forgotten that children so young have definite opinions and I respect theirs-mostly. I’m the bad guy who forces them to study, eat green things and look at issues from different angles. We’ve also adopted a rowdy puppy. Training him has taxed all our patience but, the process has made us allies.
|Trace & Paws|
Because there was an election going on when I got here the boy and I discussed politics. He would have voted for Obama and can’t imagine why everyone didn’t. And this is the conservative south. I’m proud of him.
The six year old girl tells people I know everything. Yesterday she asked, Where is your house?” “I sold it. I don’t have one.” “Oh, she said, then this is your house.”
It’s been a difficult adjustment for both them and me, but we’ve prevailed. However, the truth is I don’t have enough patience or energy for this complex job. I’m falling short of my own expectations; on the other hand maybe they don’t expect perfection. Perhaps I’m taking it all to seriously. I just don’t feel nearly as serene as the grandma’s on campus appeared to be.
I’m an American woman. I like the old way-visit awhile, love them and go home for a rest.
Soon I’ll be leaving the country again for several months. When I come back I’ll find another house to buy, however, in the mean time, I have a home that if I have to go there-they have to take me in. No questions asked.