When you read the word “child,” what picture comes into your mind? For me, it’s a little girl with her hair falling out of the ponytail its been pulled into, a tinge of dirt on her face, and a mischievous grin. My mind usually does an automatic insertion of the word “rambunctious” when I think of “child.” My fondest memories of childhood are when I was allowed to be just that–a rambunctious child. But did you ever get to be that child when you were at your own house? At least, could you be that way without getting into trouble? I know I couldn’t, but at my grandmothers’ houses, life was different.
I am blessed with two very different but equally wonderful grandmothers. One is something akin to the Virgin Mary herself–always doing for others and never thinking an ill thought. The other grandmother has never been the granny type–always up on the latest gossip in town and full of hilarious stories. While they are very different, there are two main themes that hold true for both. One is that they are both excellent cooks; there never has been and never will be anything like Sunday lunch at your grandmother’s. The other is that they both gave all their grandchildren permission to live life with dirt on their face–all 24! of them (13 on one side and 11 on the other).
Draping sheets all over the place to create haunted houses. Making forts in the woods with elaborate sets of booby traps. Walking to the store with a whole dollar and the freedom to buy WHATEVER we wanted. Playing veterinarian with a live dog and an open wound. Teaching us to play poker with a huge jar of pennies. Letting us stick our finger in the batter for a taste as many times as we wanted to. Crossing logs over dangerously deep ditches. Playing “garbage man” (a cruel game my older boy cousins invented) until it sounded like the house was going to fall in and we were all going to break each other’s legs. Making bottle rocket guns and actually shooting them AT each other. Sleeping in pallets on the floor. Playing wiffle ball in the back yard. Never making us bathe. Falling asleep watching television. Allowing us to experiment–truly on our own–with cooking, and then assuring us that they really “liked it better with that burn taste.” Putting on as much make-up as we wanted. Having a never-ending supply of glass-bottle cokes in the outside fridge. Never telling us to stop whispering and go to sleep. Giving us spoons and a bucket of water and telling us to go ahead and make mud pies. Eating strawberries with much more powdered sugar than berry…The memories are endless.
I’ll spare you more details, but you can see it was the freedom to make a mess, to do the thing that wasn’t allowed, and never even made to clean up our messes. At home, your parents are always busy teaching you how to be a grown-up, but grandparents, they were just busy letting you be the child bursting inside.
I know that we only went to our grandparents’ houses for short stays, and they weren’t responsible for seeing that we didn’t turn out to be spoiled rotten delinquents. I know that children need rules and boundaries, and I know for sure that I don’t have the energy or patience to be cleaning up big messes like that all the time. However, lately Pace has become very conscientious. Always saying things like, “Sorry I spilled that Mommy.” or “Mommy, why are you so aggravated?” or “Was that bad that I did that?” or “I can’t have that right now because we’re busy, right?” She’s become scared of making mistakes. She is trying hard to please and not step on my toes. And why? Because I am constantly trying to make a responsible adult out of her instead of letting her be that little child she so desperately wants to let out. I can’t be my grandmothers, but I could sure use some more grandmother in my mothering.