August 31, 2020

When your Baby has a Baby: What it Feels Like to Be a Grandmother.

Was it really 28 years ago, when I was running around with a towheaded 5-year-old, patching up skinned knees, kissing boo-boos, and reading The Cat in the Hat multiple times?

He knew it by heart and could read it himself pretty quickly.

I decided that it was his favorite book because the kids tricked the mom.

Had the calendar page turned more than two and a half decades since I wondered whether being a “boy mom” meant learning an entirely new language and culture?

Even though my husband and I had a rule of “no war toys,” meaning no guns, he still made them out of his fingers or a stick. He even beguilingly told me that the jet fighter plane he made out of Legos was dropping flower seeds instead of bombs.

I had to smile at his ingenuity.

His marvelous sense of spatial relations and hand-eye coordination had him taking a brief look at the image on the Lego kit box and then putting the pieces together without needing instructions.

Blessedly, with all of the mix-and-match colorful blocks scattered about, I don’t ever remember stepping on them.

Art was one of his passions from an early age, and whenever we would find ourselves in the presence of professional or casual artists, he would ask them to draw with him. Still life images and Japanese anime were among his favorites. Cooking was a father-son bonding experience as he and his dad would watch cooking shows, go shopping, and create culinary delights for the family.

Six years later, I found myself raising Adam solo, when my husband Michael died of Hepatitis C. A bit bewildered, I knew I needed a village to help me raise my strong-willed, high energy son.

I tapped platonic male friends to be his go-to guys. One in particular, named Phil Garber, became his “unofficial Big Brother” since we had been on the waiting list for the agency for three years.

In short order, they bonded and thought of each other as father and son. Phil and his wife Janet were my stalwarts when I needed guidance, and when (as is often the case with parents and children) we required a reprieve from each other.

When Adam was 14, he told me, “Mom, I am an undercover angel sent to teach you patience.”

I laughed and said, “I thought you didn’t believe in angels.” With a wise guy look and wink, he replied, “Yeah, but you do.” Clearly, I am a life-long learner.

He has been my teacher in a multitude of ways. On one pivotal evening, in his adolescence, we were in the kitchen and I was once again railing on about the mess he had left. I showed him how easy it was to clean up, all the while expressing my dissatisfaction with an intensity that would have shocked many people who think of me as Zen in my approach to life.

He started cackling, and I demanded to know what he was laughing about. “I love to push your buttons and see you get mad.” Uh oh. I clamped my hand over my mouth and decided at that moment that I was no longer willing to give him power over me by hijacking my emotions. I can’t say for sure how long it took, but in pretty short order, I had weaned away from that behavior.

As we matured together and he left home, our relationship shifted. When once upon a time, he was dependent on me with frequent requests for problem-solving, the roles began to reverse, and he was giving me (sometimes unsolicited) advice.

When he met his wife Lauren, I knew pretty quickly that their relationship was “Beshert,” Yiddish for “meant to be.”

The way they looked at each other, their interactions, the ways in which being together made him the highest version of himself (isn’t that what relationships are meant to do?), had this mother’s heart swell with pride. I told them both that I would not be a meddling mother and mother-in-law, and that they were each other’s primary consultants on decision-making—I was back-up.

At one point, Lauren thanked me for raising the man of her dreams. What mother-in-law doesn’t want to hear that?

As they were planning their wedding, they had decided that Phil (Adam’s surrogate father) and I would walk him down the aisle together. Tragically, Phil had a congenital heart condition which caused his death the week prior to the wedding. As a result, his wife Janet and I accompanied him to await his beautiful bride at the altar.

On January 21, 2020, a new leaf blossomed on our family tree. Dean Michael-Phillip Moser came into the world with bright eyes, and a heart-melting, awe-inducing infant smile. The hyphenated middle name is a tribute to both fathers who had influenced Adam and helped him to be the man who I watched cradle his newborn son for the first time.

When they knew he was imminent, he told me he wanted his child to call me Bubbe, which is Yiddish for grandmother. At first, it was a bit of a tweak since he knew how I sometimes cringed when I spoke about my own paternal grandmother who practiced smother love/helicopter grandparenting.

Then I realized that she was, in many ways, a model for deep devotion, the carrier of the family flame, the passer of stories, the bearer of tradition (think “Fiddler on the Roof”), and a better cook and baker than I will ever be, so I accepted the appellation. My son and daughter-in-law gifted me with a T-shirt emblazoned with a peace sign and the words “Hippie Bubbe.” I proudly wear it.

The first time we met was in the hospital room the three of them would share for a few days. Of course, I cried cradling him.

Adam had warned me that he would become the center of my universe. I responded, “He will be the center of yours.”

How misguided I was. It feels like NRE (New Relationship Energy) when you are in the initial courting phase and you can’t wait to be in that person’s presence. Good thing we live only a short car ride away. I had been there a few times a week to help them get settled and catch up on sleep, as new parents desperately need. Lauren’s parents and sister have been there on other days, indulging in some quality grandchild and nephew care time too.

Getting to know Dean, who is a cuddle bug and loves to be held, sung to (Beatles songs seem to provide comfort), and danced with, is a joy.

Initially, like all newborns, crying, peeing, pooping, eating, and sleeping was his repertoire. What seems to be an overnight transformation: he is looking around, laughing, making all kinds of googly baby sounds that charm anyone around him. His expressive faces have me wondering what is going on in his baby brain.

I imagine that by the time he is able to speak, he will have forgotten. His favorite books are Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and the classic Goodnight Moon, as well as one given to him by his other hippie grandparents called Woodstock, Baby. He never tires of having them read to him, as he gums on them and turns the pages with us.

For nearly three months, during quarantine, I was not able to be with them, which was one of the most painful and challenging aspects of living in the time of COVID-19.

FaceTime, photos, phone calls, and sending him daily videos in which I would sing to him and recite nursery rhymes, were a less than desirable substitute, but they tided me over until we could safely be together.

Back to the regular routine of a few weekly visits during which we share quality baby and Bubbe time. He is now sitting up, crawling, pulling himself up on objects and people, and climbing everywhere. Eating with a spoon, holding his own bottle, loving gumming on bananas.

Last week after feeding him that delectably sweet fruit, I hadn’t noticed until I was about to walk into the supermarket that I was doused in banana-infused drool. A lovely look for which I was grateful.

My wish for Dean is that he always knows he is loved and loving, caring and compassionate to himself and others, creative and intelligent, a generous giver and gracious receiver, successful, multitalented, with no limits, strong, resilient, accepting, and a leader. And I hope he always speaks his mind and is a force for good in the world.

His parents will offer the environment in which he will thrive.


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