“You’re not my family.”
The words stung for just a moment. I stopped in my tracks as I thought about what my 7-year old grandson had just said. The words hurt and I immediately started wondering what terrible thing I must have done to cause him to say such a thing to me.
We were talking about an upcoming trip that his parents, he and his two sisters were planning. He was so excited about this ‘family trip’ and then I asked, “Can I go too?”
That’s when he said it. “You’re not my family.” He laughed when he said it – like I was silly to even think I might be his family.
For a few seconds, my mind raced with memories of times we’d spent together.
The children often come to my house during the week and on the weekends. We play outside, swing, take walks, paint, color, read, and do lots of things together. They sleep over and we have fun pajama parties and late-night ice cream snacks which are usually forbidden at their home. We go to the park, stop by the mall for fun, and play at the park. We are together frequently for lots of fun things and I’m always at their school events and extracurricular activities whenever possible.
There are plenty of times that it’s just me and the 3 grandchildren enjoying a fun meal out at one of their favorite restaurants, watching a movie, shopping for a special toy, or checking out the latest gadgets. We go for ice cream at Sweet Frog, stop by Sweet Spot for some delicious treats, head to the Children’s Museum of Richmond, explore the Science Museum of Virginia, or visit a local playground. We’ve seen our share of the inside of Romp n’ Roll, Chuck E Cheese, Pump It Up, Barnes and Noble, public libraries and more.
The grandchildren are wonderful helpers when we bake cookies, chop fresh fruit, and create our own new crazy menu of fruity cereal, chocolate chip pancakes, and lots of bacon for dinner. They love to run from the garden below our house and bring me fresh picked tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and other vegetables in spring and summer so they can see me prepare them for dinner instantly — “just like the old days” they’ll say.
There are so many wonderful memories I have of spending time with the grandchildren. Those times are very special to me and I treasure each and every moment I have with them. They are the most wonderful “family” I could ever ask for.
So how could I not be part of my grandson’s family!
But my grandson is right.
No matter how much time I spend with them, no matter how often I do something for them, no matter how much I love them, no matter how often I am with them, “I am not his family”.
It only took a moment to pull myself back to reality and realize what he meant. His “family” are the people he lives with every day in his home. They are his parents and his two sisters. They are the people he wakes up with, eats with, goes to school with, comes home to, plays with, argues with, and goes to bed with. I enter the picture most days of the week – sometimes just to stop by and grab a hug, sometimes to pick up the kids and take them for an outing, sometimes to drop off a surprise. And sometimes I stop by just to play and visit.
But I’m not “in his family”.
At least not in the sense of a 7-year old’s mind. And that’s okay for now, because one day when he’s older, he will see that a family includes everyone you love and care about — and whether those people are your mother, father, sister, brother, grandparents, or even a very wonderful and close friend — they can still be your family.
To all of the Richmond moms and dads out there, cherish the years when your children are young (though I know there will be stressful and hectic times along the way!). For now, you are their entire world when it comes to family — you are “their only family” and it’s a wonderful thing. I could not be prouder of my daughter and son (in-law) who have created such a wonderful family bond!