My five-year-old niece, Gracie, snores softly beside me. She is sprawled sideways across the bed, arms and legs spread wide. We are having our first sleep-over, just the two of us.
I’d forgotten how such small bodies can consume 9/10ths of the bed! Her warm slightly sweating head nestled into the crook of my arm earlier while I read The Berenstain Bears – pulled from Rosie’s old bookshelf. Now I keep having to move it so I can claim my small section of the mattress. My husband has been relegated to the guest room for the night.
Truthfully, I’ve forgotten how to drive my days around a five-year-old. It’s been so long since I’ve had to grab for a tiny plump hand when exiting the car, or crossing the street. And so long since an insistent high-pitched voice demanded that I divert my attention from the friend I chatted with, so long since I’ve had the opportunity to plant kisses atop a warm head feathered with fine hair.
Since this is just one day and one night – not endless days and nights stretching ahead of me – I find I have new stores of patience. I didn’t mind the minutes ticking by as I paced behind her today while we toured the pumpkin patch, listening to her comment on each pumpkin that caught her fancy. I didn’t get annoyed when I had to repeat myself again and again, gently reminding her that she was not allowed to take a pumpkin today. but when she visited with her school she would be allowed to take one home – but only if she could carry it.
“Can you carry that one?” I said again and again, as she pointed out yet another pumpkin that she “loved.” Back when my kids were that age I would have sighed with frustration, but today it was actually kind of fun.
Perhaps this is what grand-parenting will be like. A whole new outlook on life with little ones. Renewed patience based not so much on the wisdom of advanced years, but on the fact that I know I won’t be required to display this patience each and every minute of each and every day.
When I kissed her goodbye the next morning, after waffles and chocolate pudding, and coloring and running around with her cousins, after the temperature tantrum stimulated by not being given the opportunity to be first at licking the pudding bowl – well I did breathe a sigh of relief.
Sometimes this empty nest looks fairly inviting. But it’s satisfying to have the opportunity to fill it occasionally with chattering little voices.