The Line Between Loving and Spoiling


grandparents with grandson

BananaStock/ Jupiter

It's a brilliant day, and I'm writing this from a park bench in a redwood grove. On the adjacent playground, I see mothers cavorting with their children, herding them with something between mirth and panic as their tiny bodies swing, climb jungle gyms, and spin on shiny metal go-rounds. The mothers hover, chatting among themselves like nervous bodyguards -- which, of course, they are, only much less well paid. The fringe benefits, however, are priceless. Yes. I am the mother of a mostly happy and miraculous 5-year-old boy, as are all 5-year-old boys. Yet I sit here unencumbered by a single tote bag, juice box, or moist towelette. I don't even have a purse; it's locked neatly in the trunk of my freshly washed car. I have only my key ring and my naked toes, which curl against the cool blades of grass. Why am I able to do this?


I sing an ode to grandparents, near and far, biological and adopted. Without grandparents, there would be no freedom such as this for us mothers, ever. I would not be on this bench right now, blissfully serene, with no one who is four feet tall yelling about cartoons he is missing. But I am here. My son is at his grandparents'. Ahhhh.

Grandparents are like angels with their own cars, angels who will not take money for their services and who protect anyone in their charge completely. I term this the G Force: a silent power supporting everyday life, keeping all afloat in a magical way yet to be defined by science.

One need never think twice while one's child is with his grandparents: They will lift a car if they have to or flag down help with their fishing hat. They are invincible, safe, familiar.

At the same time all this affection and joy course through my son's small, sturdy body, he also instinctively knows that he can get away with murder for several days, and it is all right. It is all right because he is unconditionally loved there, and because his mother and father are somewhere, suspended in the ether -- alive and out of his way.

It is all right because he is in an ersatz four-star destination hotel with 24-hour room service and his own frog village fully claiming a tub. It is all right because without grandparents there would be no families for many of us, there would be no full, free relaxation, and there would be so much less joy. Grandparents are the genie in the lamp of parenthood.

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