Jeremy's mom, Charlotte, has had my girls for the past ten days while Jeremy and I celebrated my dad's 60th birthday on a much-anticipated Mediterranean cruise. My girls were in good hands. Charlotte is one of those baby whisperers who can soothe any small child at any time, no matter how dire the circumstances. Or so it seems. Sometimes when we're together and my girls are acting like wild animals I have to stifle the impulse to step back and say to Charlotte, "You go ahead and take care of this one." Because I know she will, and we'll all probably be happier for it.
It's fun to drop back into the shadows and watch Nana shine, even when there isn't a tantrum involved. Today Katherine came screeching into the kitchen, "Nana! It is raining outside and there aren't even any clouds. The sun is out." She lowered her voice to a reverent whisper. "It's like magic." Instead of saying, "Wow. Why don't you go draw a picture of it for me while I finish cooking dinner," Charlotte said, "Oh, well then we have to check for rainbows right this second." And she put the lid back on her soup and began following Katherine from window to window in search of rainbows.
During dinner tonight Nana winked across the table at Elisabeth, who immediately tried to wink back. Failing at the task, Elisabeth then poked her chubby index finger into her eyeball trying to "make it wink." And so Nana patiently began winking lessons. I sat there transfixed, my soup spoon frozen in front of my mouth mid bite wondering if I would have ever taken the time or intiative to tutor my two year old on the finer points of winking. I think all tired mommies know the answer to that one.
Todays other "Nana moments" included three little kitchen helpers assisting with dinner, a tutorial on how to make your eyes go cross-eyed, tender lullabyes sung at naptime, and a diligent search and rescue mission for a misplaced backpack. It's not even the "doing of these things that warms my soul, but the graciousness with which they were done. I've been trying to articulate to myself what it is about Charlotte that makes chaos feel comfortable, interruptions feel like a stroke of good luck, and everyday curiosities feel wondrous. Whenever I'm around her, watching her interact with my girls I feel that sensation of copying someone else's answers off a test. Like I'm desperately taking notes and transcribing them on the back of my hand.
Five years ago I think that feeling upset me, as if it were a reflection on my own weaknesses. But as I get older I understand how necessary it is that we do take notes. That we copy off one another's test papers and make darned sure that the ink is permanent. We do this because being a Cheater Mom is the best way, the only way, to improve our weaknesses. We don't get do-overs. There's no erasing when it comes to parenting mistakes. But the good news folks, is that we can cheat as much as we want!