As many of you know, my amazing, loving, kindhearted mother died too soon two and a half years ago. When she died she had 5 grandchildren, my son was the oldest and the youngest was a baby born while she was already deep into her illness, my niece. Since then my kids have grown and she has missed so much. That little baby has grown into a Big Girl of nearly 3 years-old and she now has a little brother who has just turned 1.
My mom never got to meet her grandson and barely got to see her youngest granddaughter. And even when she did she was so sick. While I long for her to see my kids as they grow, I am lucky. My kids had years with Grandma. Years of that special, unique and unconditional love. I have pictures of my children with Grandma, anecdotes and funny little stories to remind them of their time with her. I have books gifted by her with a personal note just for that very special little person in her life.
Grandma reading to my kids.
And for me, I had her too, to lean on, to laugh with, to depend on. I had someone in my life who thought my kids were even more amazing than I did. She was there to show me on those days when I was struggling to see it, just exactly what was so very lovable about them. I have my memories. So many memories of Grandma reading to them before bed, dancing in the living room, going on adventures and walks in the woods.
Was this enough? No way. But it was something.
My sister Allyson, with her two babies, never had this. I am sad for her that she doesn’t have her mother and I am sad for her children that they never got to know the world’s best Grandma and I am sad for my mom that she is missing it all.
Her baby granddaughter could always bring a smile to her face.
Early on after my mom’s death I made a decision. I couldn’t replace her but I knew I had to do something. I thought that maybe I could give my sister a little bit of what I had had from my mom. And I could give her children a taste of what they were missing.
Since then I have developed a very special relationship with my niece and nephew. One that is more than just the average Aunt. And, I have done what I can to support my sister in ways that I know my mom would have had she been here.
Recently I was talking about some of the things I had done with the kids and someone said to me, “You know, you don’t have to do these things. Your sister doesn’t expect you to.” I just looked at them. Of course I didn’t have to. Of course she didn’t expect it. I never felt that I had to do any of this. Honestly, I am not good at sticking with anything I don’t want to do so that was never my motivation. I do these things because I want to. For my sister, for the kids, and for my mom.
But mostly I do it for myself. I have a very close relationship with these two special people and it is just mine. When Mommy and Daddy aren’t around (and even sometimes when they are) the kids turn to me. We cuddle, get silly, read a book and dance together. I give them special books with a note inside just for them. We go to music class together, just the three of us, once a week and I smile and laugh watching them knowing my mom would have loved every moment of it. Tomorrow I will hang out with the baby while Daddy and his Big Girl check out her new preschool.
Me with my nephew and niece at our weekly music class.
I am so fortunate. I have these two special little people who love me to pieces. I get to be the person who sneaks them a taste of ice cream after Mommy says “no” or carries them when they don’t feel like walking. My niece and I even have our own inside jokes and games and I know how to soothe them when they are sad and snuggle them off to sleep.
Now do you see? Do you understand? I don’t do this because I have to. I do this because what I get back is far, far greater than what I put in.