I currently have temporary custody of my youngest granddaughter. The pretty princess started kindergarten a few weeks ago and suddenly I find myself back in elementary school hell. Navigating school schedules, doctor appointments, dance classes and all the stuff raising a six-year-old entails is the stuff of retirement nightmares. I’ve been reminded why people should have children while they’re young and able-bodied. Midlife parenting is for the birds. But as history has proven we grandparents do what we need to do. We step up, fill in the gaps and we shine.
This week I attended the elementary school’s Open House and sat in a PTA meeting. It’s been some twenty-plus years since I felt obligated to do that. There I was, in a room full of young parents giddy with excitement about their offspring’s academic journey. They have no clue what’s coming. Having six kids, all now adults, I’ve been down this road a time or two. I wanted to warn them this isn’t the picnic they think it will be. They’re firmly on a roller coaster and the ride comes with some serious highs and some very low lows.
There were mothers there who are having a difficult time with letting go, their kids more than ready to spread their wings and fly. The Pretty Princess insisted on the second day that she didn’t need me to walk her to her classroom. I watched her and her oversized backpack march off, her independence and strength on full display. It would have broken me when I was a new mother with my first child. Now, I give her a thumbs up, pride gleaming from my eyes. We’ve got this and this was yet another step toward her being the bad ass Queen I know she’ll eventually be.
As my baby girl and I navigate our new relationship I’ve discovered that midlife parenting also has its benefits. I no longer sweat the small stuff. My parenting style has evolved. I can sit in a room filled with millennial parents and be amused by those things that have them all in their feelings. I know what she throws tantrums about today will be the fodder for jokes when she becomes a teen. That the road ahead will be filled with accomplishments and disappointments and that the joys we experience will be whatever we want them to be.
I’m told math has changed and two plus two doesn’t always equal four with the new math. But I can handle the curriculum changes and I know that allowing baby girl to fly means also allowing her to also fall. I won’t always be there to catch her, but I know how to pick her back up, put her on her feet and push her forward. I’ve learned that protective shouldn’t be stifling and for her to blossom all I need to do is to keep planting the necessary seeds. This time around I have grandmotherly wisdom on my side and that is pure gold.