Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Grandparent Circus

Once upon a time, there was a mother, a father and various children. There were two sets of Grandparents. All formed a familial community in which to raise and nurture the next generations.

Enter feminism, post-war consumerism, and the sixties. Now we have mothers raising children alone while fathers date/marry/divorce new 'mommies' half their age. Grandparents are no longer married, deciding after 20+ years that it's time to be done. And the familial community is no more.

It is into this reality that we are navigating. Today my father-in-law and one of his "special friends" (the non-commital euphemism I use when describing whoever the grandparent is dating at the time-seeking to ascribe no special status as they may never show up again), took my first born to the circus. In another city, for the entire afternoon. Without us.

We are trying to navigate the uncharted waters of complicated and complex grandparent relationships. We support their right to time, access and relationship with each of our sons. We get it. Yet, it's still tough.

The 'special friend' isn't very friendly to us, preferring to use passive agressive comments in lieu of mature relationship building. We get it. You are the girlfriend du jour.

So, when he called to take our sweetie to his first circus, it was with trepidation. If the special friend doesn't respect mommy and daddy, what comments would be made to our little? Could we trust him to really care for a curious, talkative, energetic little fella?

We let him go, because he needs to know his grandfather. He needs to build memories with him that he will share with his own kids. He needs it. Pap Pap needs our little too. No amount of passive aggressive relationship messiness deniest the genuine love and pride he has for 'his boys'.

My five year old just called. He recounted how he saw 'real' lions, tigers and monkeys. And how this lady shot out of a cannon. And how these guys did the most dangerous thing of all-they hung upswide down by their feeties. And a dog trainer. And an elephant ride (that was stinky). And....and....and...."daddy, I can't tell her everything now. I'll finish when we get home."

My sweetie didn't remember any passive aggressive silliness. He'll remember the silly clowns. He won't remember his mommy checking the clock every minute to see when he would be back. He will remember every minute of the magic of his first circus. His face will be sticky with cotton candy and smiling at the guy who "ran on da rings faster and faster when we clapped faster and faster and then swower and swower when we clapped swower". He didn't have to face the complicated, Grandparent circus. That's our job. Is it too late to turn in our tickets?

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