We may think our experience as parents makes us grandparent-ready. Susan Shreve discovers otherwise in this excerpt from her wise and charming essay “If You Knew Harry…” in Eye of My Heart: A Grandmother’s Learning Curve
The first rule I made for myself as a grandmother was to follow my daughter’s rules. Which is not to say I didn’t have opinions and that I didn’t express them. But I knew I’d be much more likely to have Theo to myself if Elizabeth trusted me, and I was willing to do just about anything to gain favor as a responsible, dependable, dutiful grandmother.
But I didn’t remember what a whole day with a child was like. The first day I had Theo to myself in New York lasted months. (This, even though with my own children it seemed as if the whole of their childhoods from start to finish had been over in a heartbeat.) We played ball and dropped by the sandbox at the playground. We went to the Natural History Museum, then rode the carousel horse in Central Park and, fearing that Theo might slip off, I wrapped my arms tight around him—and together we slipped off onto the rotating wheel.
I skipped the description of the carousel ride when I returned Theo to my daughter. “He was wonderful,” I said, taking off his jacket and hat. “Smiling his great big smile at everyone who peered into his stroller.”
“Hmm,” Elizabeth said when she picked him up. “He seems to be missing a shoe.”
“A shoe?” I asked, completely unaware that Theo had spent the afternoon with only one shoe. “It must have dropped off in the museum.”
“Did you put the A and D ointment on his diaper rash?” she asked, scrambling through the diaper bag.
“Of course,” I replied. “I changed him at the coffee shop.” And then I remembered that the A and D had dropped out of the diaper bag and I’d forgotten to pick it up when we left in a hurry because Theo was crying his heart out.
Almost thirty years had passed between my last baby and this one, and I was foolish enough to expect the full measure of motherhood to dust my shoulders like snowflakes once again.
(Adapted and excerpted from “If You Knew Harry…” in Eye of My Heart)