JJ proposed to me a week before I left for 15 days in India. It’s no surprise, then, that when I went to visit Vanessa on a random day, she hunted through the house to offer me all the handy travel items she had stashed away from one of Anna’s many excursions. While doling over purses to hide under my shirts and airplane pillows she shared with me her thoughts on marriage.

She told me “the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.” It’s stuck with me through the years and I try to apply the same wisdom toward my children’s father.

I think a close cousin to this thinking is wisdom for grandparents: the best way to love your grandchildren is to send their parents out on a date. 

The kids feel loved when their parents get a night out. We’ve been so blessed to have Carol as the A+ grandma who climbs onto the floor with the kids and excitedly responds to relentless requests for another story. Perhaps she doesn’t do it on purpose, but when she stops down for the night and keeps the kids while we share a precious dinner alone, she’s giving the kids more than her own love, but increasing what we have to offer them as well.

Having 4 (very close in age and still small) children makes date night costly – not just because we enjoy tasty food, but because even a teenage sitter can rack up quite a bill. We usually estimate what we’ll spend for dinner out and double that for the cost of our entire date. We value our time together, so we try to put it into the budget and even follow through, but sometimes it’s hard to live our values.

We’ve had folks offer to keep the kids for us in passing, but how do you ask if someone is free to babysit when you know there’s no intent to pay? Just thinking about the interaction gives me hives.

My heart does a little dance when Carol calls  and says, “I’d like to come down for a visit, do you guys want to go out? I’ll keep the kids.” Not only am I catching a breather, but the kids LOVE getting to spend time with someone who LOVES them. Win-win. Win.

One February when I was miserably pregnant and in the midst of transitioning to my SAHM/work-for-myself life we took a trip to the lake with his folks. In February we traditionally celebrate both of JJ’s parents’ birthdays along with their anniversary and Valentine’s day. It’s pretty much a Month O’ Minehart. But that February 15 they sent us to the restaurant with their credit card in hand, anxious for the evening with a house full of minis.

These gifts lift us most when we don’t expect them. Even better, when offerings come from free will, grandma and grandpa often feel like the ones winning in the situation because they “get” to have the kids for a little while. (I’m convinced they believe this because they also get to give them back at a pre-determined time.)  Most important to me is opportunity for my kids to have grandparent time; second in line is protecting grandma and grandpa’s ability to say “no.”

Grandparenting takes a different shape for every family – even for individual families within a family, grandparents find their relationships with their grandchildren look unique. Some grandparents thrive on keeping the kids as the day care option; others really prefer a Sunday afternoon visit. There’s no “right” way to navigate a grandparenting relationship. I can only tell you what blesses this house: a blue van rolls up and the kids rush to the door to ask, “are you staying the night?!” Mom and dad put on their going out clothes, have a bite of sushi and come home to a quiet house.

Sometimes, I realize I’m so blessed I fear my heart may explode.

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