We have a tiny newcomer in our lives. Brand new grandparents, my husband and I marvel at Mary Jane’s tiny perfect hands, her long graceful fingers reaching through air in the general direction of a thing: her grandfather’s nose, the aquamarine in my necklace, the squishy rattle I dangle in front of her.
I’m way more nervous around my granddaughter than I was around my sons. I’m scared she is choking every time she spits up. I worry that a bug might bite her when I walk her around outside. I’m terrified that when she’s screaming and wailing and arching her back in fury right before her nap that she might pass out cold. My niece did that.
She might sense my unease. My lack of ease. My one son holds her casually in his left arm, beer in his right hand, and tells a joke, unconcerned if her neck is at an odd angle. My other son mimics her every expression, mirroring her pouting quivering lower lip that is just too adorable or her little garbled sounds. She can’t take her eyes off either of these uncles. Her pink face erupts in glee with both of them, her smile impossible not to return.
A while back, one friend told me her new grandson hated her. “No really, he screams bloody murder every time I hold him. I am not exaggerating,” she said. Not yet a grandmother myself at the time, I clucked to my husband that her words could be a self-fulfilling prophecy, that her belief in her statement could work its way into some sort of truth. “She should never say that! Never even think that! I would never ever even think a thought like that,” I said out loud, judgmentally, on one of the days I was hoping to become a grandmother.
My DIL doesn’t flinch when MJ screams in my arms. She doesn’t try to rescue her or comfort her or save the day. She just keeps on doing whatever she is doing, telling a story or finishing the dishes or making me a sandwich. If anything, she says the baby has started behaving that way, discontented/furious/hysterical at this time every single day, reassuring me that it’s not me.
Worse case scenario, even if this tiny creature is more comfortable with her uncles and her granddad than me, she won’t be like that way forever. She’ll get used to me. I know where the cookies are, and I’ll do whatever it takes. And I have big plans for the two of us. Lots of them.
I know in my head that babies cry. They scream. They flail and squall and carry on. But as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes all she wants is my husband. I pace back and forth, jouncing her, singing to her, whispering soothing words in her tiny ear, and she wails, her little face flushed red and wet with tears. My husband walks slowly toward us and reaches out his arms. He takes her and she shudders, then curls up on his shoulder as the song changes and he sings the same James Taylor song he sang decades ago to our sons.
Last month, when I got her up from her nap, I hurriedly changed her diaper, worried that the cushion was too cold on her head, that she might associate me with discomfort. We walked outside, careful of bugs, and looked at the trees and the sky and the dog. We looked in the mirror and said hello to ourselves. We read a book and stuck some big plastic blocks in our mouths. MJ did not cry, but I felt like she was biding her time until her mother was done with work.
We both heard Julianna call cheerfully as she bounded up the stairs to see her baby girl. MJ whipped her head around toward her mother’s voice and wriggled in my arms like an excited puppy. Delighted, MJ beamed, her gummy little grin wide and slobbery, as her mother stretched out her arms. But then, all of a sudden, MJ hesitated, and then rested her head on my shoulder. Even with her mother, her sun and her moon and her wonderful world, standing right in front of her, MJ relaxed against me. And the weight of her precious head against me was monumental.
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Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.