I love being a grandparent. My granddaughter, Abryanna, and I putter around my little house. We chit chat about nothing or do not speak at all. Quietly my house is filled again with the talk of small children. She reminds me so much of her mother. My granddaughter follows me around in my work, but we are each absorbed, me with my thoughts, she, with who knows what. I wash dishes and do laundry and wander in and out of my inner monologues, listening intently when she is too quiet and gone from my sight and sighing contentedly when she is making noise and suddenly appears under foot. My grandmother told my mother once that a grandchild is both the best of parenting and the hardest. “When you are a parent,“ she said, “you must set the boundaries, but when you are a grandparent you can let that go. When you are a parent and your heart gets broken, it only breaks once. When you are a grandparent, it breaks twice.” I think I am finally beginning to understand what she meant.
Abryanna, therefore, is the reason it is a great honor for me to welcome grandparents into my classroom. These days I am a kindergarten teacher at an urban Milwaukee Waldorf School, but my back ground is many years at the first LifeWays center in Milwaukee. Grandparent’s day was the brain child of Miss Sarah, our enrollment coordinator. We are so lucky to have Miss Sarah since she arranges everything for each kindergarten classroom and graciously oversees the whole morning. Miss Sarah sets up the application process, makes the phone calls and then does all scheduling. She works hard to schedule all the grandparents who would like to come and even has arranged visits for beloved aunts and uncles for children whose grandparents are too far away or no longer with us. Miss Sarah designates the four days we arrange throughout the school year; one in the fall, one in the late fall, one in the winter and one early in spring to get everyone in and amazingly she always does it! Only four grandparents are allowed in each of our three classrooms because even just four extra chairs around our little snack table makes for a cozy snack experience, but the children all take it in stride.
When the day comes, Miss Sarah, with her clipboard in hand, waits by the front door of the school for the grandparents to arrive first thing in the morning. She guards the coveted parking spots she has set aside to make sure there is ample parking in our tiny city parking lot. Then she escorts the grandparents to our rooms as the most honored guests that they are. With a gentle smile Miss Sarah passes them over to the children and to me and the fun begins. Just this past year Miss Sarah and I managed to keep one out of town grandma’s visit a secret. When her grandson walked into the classroom that morning, he was speechless! A thing I never thought I’d see. This particular boy was NEVER speechless.
Grandparent’s Day is such a special day for the children and they love having their special grandma or grandpa in the room with them. They get to introduce their grandparents during morning blessing. They get to impress on them the rules of the classroom or tell them, “Miss Jane doesn’t care if we do that!” Which often will raise an eyebrow from the grandparent… or me! Grandparents get to learn how to straighten the room when Miss Jane starts to sing the cleanup song, and where we go to the bathroom and where we wash our hands. They join us for circle and we get to giggle and laugh when grandpa good naturedly refuses to crawl under the play stand during Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where have You Been? And there is always the Grandpa who would like just a baby bear sized serving of millet porridge and then asks for seconds! We have the grandma who cannot sit still and jumps in to wash dishes or sweep or whatever else is needed. We have the grandpa who must take a small group of children out into the hall for jumping rope because he just needs to move! (so that is where his granddaughter gets all that energy!) And the grandma who gets buried in dishes because she “liked” the muffins one little boy offered her and suddenly finds herself surrounded by five children baking and feeding her one dish after another.
When the morning is over, the children have the honor of walking their beloved Grandparents to the library, so Miss Sarah can answer any questions and say goodbye. It is always a fun-filled morning for me and the children. I think the grandparents are usually exhausted but grateful as well. They always leave smiling.
One huge benefit of grandparent’s day which makes it even more special is that the children have begun to recognize Miss Sarah as the lady who brings their Grandparents. Sometimes in our effort to have special experiences for the children in our care we forget the people who are all around us. Two years ago, I began to invite our office staff to join us for Thursday stone soup lunches. I wanted the children to know all the wonderful people in our office who work so hard for the school. These are the people whom they may not know but that they see walking the halls doing all the things that get done during a school day. It has been wonderful for the office staff and equally wonderful for the children. Our Miss Sarah has been a regular. Dear Miss Sarah is retiring at the end of August. We have been so lucky to have her, and we will miss her warm smile as she stands at the door with our grandparents. I know, however, that her legacy will live on every time a grandparent shows up at my door. May you all be lucky enough to have a Miss Sarah come to your door with a grandparent or two. Selfishly, perhaps, I am hoping she will have more time now in her retirement to pop in for a bowl of soup on Thursdays!
Written by Jane L. Danner
Lead teacher of the Firefly Garden Kindergarten at Tamarack Waldorf School in Milwaukee WI, and a member of the very first graduating class of the LifeWays training years and years ago. Proud Nana of Abryanna.