Ain’t life ‘grand’

Parenting never grows old, especially when you add the titles ‘Grumpy’ and ‘BB’ to the job description

By George Valadie

It doesn’t happen all that often. It certainly hasn’t been typical for our family. But remarkably, one of our longed-for dreams has come true.

Katy, our oldest, her husband, Clint, and their two youngsters recently moved back to our hometown, Chattanooga.

I can’t tell you how excited we’ve been.

But the most intriguing part of this miracle is that with their transition, job hunting, and house hunting, they’ve moved into our house.

And we’re apparently not moving out.

Six years ago, all of us lived in Memphis. Then life took us in new directions. Nancy and I accepted jobs in Chattanooga, and Katy and her family left for Houston for a promotion for Clint.

What had been nothing more than a single mile separating us from their hugs and kisses had suddenly become 800. Two minutes had become 12 hours.

And we’ve hated it ever since.

Their oldest, Brady, was but 3 when they moved; Emma had just been born.

They were our first grandchildren, and with their births came the requisite births of our grandparent names. And that’s when Grumpy (me) and BB (Nancy) were also born.

It’s odd how this entirely different identity washes over you when a little voice calls your name.

“Hey, Grumpy, can we …”

“Well, of course we can!”

Back then, we got to babysit and hang out, play ball in the yard, and chase in the house. We were monsters during the day and dinosaurs at night. And we ate whatever we wanted for dinner.

We got to keep them overnight on occasion, so Katy often delivered them ready for bed. Once — but only once — she had clothed Brady in “footie pajamas,” which I just couldn’t live with. Their little feet need to breathe, I said.

So when she cut out for their date, I cut out the bottoms. I don’t know about that little booger, but I sure slept better.

Now, Brady is beginning third grade, while Emma is in first. I don’t know who initially composed the phrase “one big happy family,” but throw in their dog and two of our own and what else can this possibly be?

Just to make things a tiny bit more interesting, Katy and Clint needed to return to Houston for a couple of weeks while the kids have been staying with us — all as school has been getting under way. It’s not perfect, nor preferred, but it’s been doable. Mostly.

We haven’t “done” kids in a while. There were times we didn’t “do” them very well when we had our own. Baths and bedtimes, breakfasts and homework, lunch money and combing hair, and gym clothes … and did I say we’ve been dreaming of this?

In the interests of complete and total honesty, Nancy has been having tremendous anxiety while I’ve been telling her it will all work out.

“It will be fun,” I keep saying. “You’re nuts!” she keeps saying.

She may be the winner.

Brady is the serious one, anxious about the unknown, nervous about where to go, people he hasn’t met, and his ability to do the work.

Emma is the absolute hoot of the pair. She has panties with days of the weeks printed on them but refuses to wear them on the designated days.

Her perspectives on life predict a future bestseller.

“My daddy snores like a giant pig but way bigger.”

“Grumpy, you’ve got the biggest bald spot I’ve ever seen.”

“I want to ride in BB’s car; yours is too dirty.”

I called her “sweetheart” one day and my wife piped in, “You never call me sweetheart!” Emma never missed a beat, “Maybe you’re not that sweet!”

While riding to school on just their second day, Brady was expressing worry that school would be getting harder and harder with each passing year.

Trying to be of comfort, I went into a lengthy monologue about God and the miracle of the human brain — how much it can learn and how it’s not that it’s hard; it’s just that it’s new; and on and on and on.

Emma proudly jumped in: “And you know what? Fish sleep with their eyes open.”

Indeed they do, honey, indeed they do.

Our mornings before school have brought back every twitching memory we ever had.

Waking them up, getting them dressed, preparing their breakfasts, packing their lunchboxes. It has us a bit discombobulated, to be sure.

Nancy drove off in the wrong car one morning, left her phone home the next. I left a full gallon of milk on the counter to spoil throughout the day.

And to top it off, I finally arrived at my own school only to find I had dressed with my boxers on backward, adding a full 1.6 points to the day’s degree of difficulty.

If you’re not going through it presently, then you can likely recall those days when you fought the same fights, worried the same worries … hoping our kids like their teachers, hoping their teachers like our kids.

And new friends? O Lord, just one good one would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Dear God — Please bless every student, every parent, every teacher. A lot. Amen.


George Valadie is president of Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga.

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