I am an only child. I’ve never had a baby of my own and the ones I am fortunate enough to have shared with Rick were already young boys when I met them. I don’t know what to do with a baby.
But when Kevin and Molly told us they were expecting their first child, I was elated. To be fair, probably not nearly so much as their birth parents who would see another generation of their own come to be, but pretty darned close.
And perplexed. What do you do with a baby?
I know how to play with puppets and even change into all sorts of different voices to make them different. But you can’t do that with a baby. A child needs to be a little older — a toddler, at least.
And I know how to color and help a little one discover the joy of crayons and play dough and markers. Big paper. Cover the table. Not on the walls unless your mom says “OK.” And coloring in the lines is not a requirement. But a baby doesn’t have the hand-eye coordination to do that. So, that’s out.
As we watched Molly come closer to her due date, both my joy and anxiety grew. I was going to be such a flunkie gran. And besides, he would have two other grans and a great grandma, too. Would I be up to snuff? And what could we do together?
I know hide and seek and peek-a-boo. That’s a possibility. And I can show him the wonders of baking — but not till he’s a little taller and a little more stove-and-knife savvy. Stirring is a good start. We can plant things and he can help harvest his grandpa’s garden. But first he has to get a little older. So, what will we do till then?
Our Baby Grand was born on the night of the 2017 Oscars. (I never did to see the Best Picture announcement snafu, and that was just fine by me!) Around 10:30 we got the call; Molly was in labor and I think we were on the road to the hospital so fast it was a blur. We finally heard the good news about our baby boy’s arrival and soon we got to see him for the first time.
I’ve never seen a baby that small — and all I could think of was the joy and wonder of it all. His hands and feet — they were so tiny. He was all wrapped up in a swaddle like a baby burrito with a little red face and itty-bitty fingers. And he was beautiful.
My dilemma of still not knowing what to do with him continued. I loved him to bits, but all I could really do was hold him, maybe feed him, watch him sleep. I still haven’t done the diaper thing. There seems to be quite a routine to it. I know that if I can make Julia’s Boeuf Bourguigon, I can put a Pamper on a little pooper but somehow, I find this daunting and secretly hope he’s an early toilet trainer and I miss that part of grannying.
But with every visit, as I’ve watched him get bigger, stronger, taller and more awake and alert for longer periods of time, I’m beginning to see a light, a time when I don’t just hold him or smile or talk with him, but actually can play.
One of our most recent visits found him at seven and a half months. He was on the threshold of crawling — right now he looks more like an army guerrilla fighter in the jungle or a Pilates expert doing a plank. He can work the knees and he can work the arm motions but he just doesn’t quite have the left-right/arm-leg thing going yet. He will soon, though, and when he does, watch out! Perhaps even as I write these words he is scurrying across the floor!
Our Baby Grand is learning how to do things, to process and understand. He has little toys he can open and close and seems to get the if/then concept — if I hit this button, then it opens; if I press it down, it closes. Of course, he doesn’t know open-and-close. But he sees cause and effect. He can throw things and loves to and pet the dogs. And he adores his swing. There’s that great big smile when he’s pushed back as far as you dare and he comes toward you. Oh, this boy is loving life.
He smiles and laughs and talks up a storm — not in any intelligible language, but I’m sure he knows just what he means. He has two tiny teeth and eats baby food and a little bit of real food — and when he doesn’t like it, his eyes get big, his bottom lip juts out just a bit, his pale brows wrinkle into a confused frown and his eyes look betrayed. Oh yes, he has language — it’s written all over his face!
His hands are bigger than in those first moments, a few hours after his birth. It will take some time before they are as large as Grandpa’s but Grandpa’s strong hands will be there to catch him, hold him and love him, to push him in the swing, to teach him to ride a bicycle like the wind.
Those hands will grow more in good time, to hold cooking spoons and paintbrushes, Scrabble tiles and Candyland cards. Yes, there will be real board games involved. One day, and perhaps not a day too far away, he will be able to hold a crayon and pull it across a page. It will be a scribble but it will be his scribble. With a little luck, he’ll pick up his Uncle Greg’s artistic talent or mine and those scribbles will turn into something you hang on the fridge because it is good — and not just because someone you love did it!
I realized that I have never seen anything except a kitten grow from infancy to adulthood on a regular basis. The process, I am discovering is one of great wonder with every encounter bringing new thoughts, hopes, dreams, wishes and great gratitude that I am allowed to follow this journey with our Baby Grand and his parents.
I think I’d better start looking for my puppets. Time goes much faster than it seems.
About the Author: Jeanie Croope
After a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.