One of the unexpected -- and greatest -- challenges I've had since becoming a parent is the absence of involved grandparents in our children's lives. I kid you not, I have cried many tears over feeling like they're getting the short end of the stick, that they're missing out. Having grown up on the other side of the world from my grandparents, I didn't have that either. But because we lived in an area where none of my friends had grandparents nearby, I didn't know what I was missing.
When we had Little B, I began realizing that we really were missing something. We didn't have grandparents and other family members swooping into town to take care of him and us. We didn't have anyone fighting over who was going to hold him next and thinking every little bit of him was perfect. We didn't have anyone taking a million photos of him and us.
But we did have church family, and that really was my saving grace and balm to my heart.
Other than leaving behind the mountains and four gorgeous seasons, that was the one thing that I was so sad to leave behind when we moved to Texas.
When I got pregnant with Little Lady, I was so overwhelmed. It had been hard enough feeling like we were sort of on our own with B, but now, with a new baby on the way, I wondered who was going to celebrate with us? Who was going to adore our kids when we were exasperated? Who would spoil them? My own mother (who is truly wonderful and admirable in many, many ways) had flat out told me that she wasn't going to make the trip to be here for us when I had the baby.
And as much as I've been grateful for the sweet friends who planned baby showers, told me all about how wonderful it was to have girls, and brought us meals, part of my heart broke at the thought of my little girl growing up without grandparents. Because as perceptive as B is, I know that just by being a girl, A will notice. She will notice that when other kids talk about their grandparents taking them places, treating them to things "just because," going on holidays together, being present for birthdays and Christmases, she will notice that we don't have that.
I have strategically avoided pages, websites, and blogs -- yes, even from friends who I love dearly -- because I know that right now, seeing those things isn't good for my heart. It takes me places that aren't healthy. I just smile and keep my mouth shut when acquaintances feel they have the right to indirectly express opinions about how many gifts my kids get at celebrations or how much I get at consignment sales, saying self-righteously, "Oh, we don't get the kids anything. The grandparents send so much STUFF!"
These are things I felt I couldn't tell anyone. I cried silent tears into my pillow many nights, because I didn't want to burden my sweet husband with it, because I didn't want him to feel any responsibility for my emotions. And I didn't want to share with friends because I didn't want them to feel like they couldn't talk about their wonderful parents and how they doted on their kids.
But today, FB was a minefield of post after post of grandparents with their grandchildren. Older friends with their grandkids, friends' parents with their little ones, couples going on trips because Grandma and Grandpa were more than happy to spoil the babies for a few days. And the memes! One right after another, things like this popped up in my newsfeed.
It felt a little like a cruel joke.
But then I wondered.
We can't be the ONLY ones in this place, right? We can't be the only ones who go months, and even years, without going on a date because money is tight and we don't have free babysitting. We can't be the only ones who look around on our kids' birthdays and feel like something (someone) is missing. We can't be the only ones who feel like we always have to be the brave ones to ask if we need help because no one is just offering to do it out of sheer familial love.
For all of you out there who are in the same boat as we are ... Sometimes, I just need someone to validate my feelings and tell me it's okay to feel that way. So I just want to say, I get it. And it sucks.
And for those of you who DO have parents and grandparents and in-laws up the wazoo who show up in droves when the babies are born and want to be at all the birthday parties and argue over why you're not going to be at their house for Christmas ... please know how blessed you are. Yes, families are messy and full of "junk."
As for me, as I sit here, wrestling with that old concept of contentment in all circumstances, I'm repeating old lessons and trying hard to apply them to today's challenge. I'm reminding myself about gratitude. Because being thankful for what I have is a much better place to be than lamenting over what I don't ... even if it is something that feels so monumental.