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  • Jeanette Baker

Birth Order and My Middle Grandson


In three weeks, my son and daughter-in-law will welcome a new baby boy. Thanks to modern medicine, Henry’s name, gender and birthdate, are already a given. Because his mother is scheduled for a C-Section, I’ll be in Sacramento to help out and to entertain Henry’s three-year-old sister, my only granddaughter, who loves to play with me. I’m not particularly crazy about cutting plastic pizzas apart or feeding her baby doll with a disappearing milk bottle, but she likes it so I do them with her. I’m delighted that she wants to be read to and I’m proud of her confident interactions with others. She’s particular but not at all shy. I admire that. Living four hundred miles apart has given us a strong appreciation for our time together. Baby Henry will definitely change the dynamic just as it changed five years ago when Michael, my middle grandson, was born seventeen months after his older brother.

After sharing every defining moment of my firstborn grandson’s life, I thought I had the grammy thing down pat. But caring for one child is definitely not the same as caring for two especially when they are very different children and very close in age. From the beginning, Michael, my middle grandchild, was definitely his own little person. His mother’s water broke three weeks early while his father was at a work conference in Dallas. To his credit, Dad hopped on trains and planes to be at the hospital for the birth of his second son. Even so, the baby certainly took his time separating from Mom, a sign of things to come. Jennifer’s labor was long and difficult and because I was in charge of John, her first born, I didn’t see the new baby until the next afternoon. The poor little guy, all seven pounds of him, looked red and bruised and beaten, like a boxer who’d lost the fight. He took awhile to “settle in” to family life and because he was happiest with his mother, I resumed my previous grammy duties that meant lots of time with John.

Little by little, baby Michael recovered from the trauma of his birth. Time passed. He gained weight, filled out, smiled, yawned, waved his arms and babbled, exuding such sweetness, compliance and chubbiness that we called him our Buddha baby. I looked forward to spending time with him and forming the same relationship I had with his brother. So much for the best laid plans has become my mantra. This baby would not to be wooed by ice cream and gummy bears, bubbles and the petting zoo. He didn’t mind my chauffeuring him to and from preschool and My Gym, as long he knew Mommy was at the other end of our trip. It threw me for a bit. Why wasn’t this little boy as enamored of me as my other grandchildren? I admit that my feelings were slightly wounded, but what the heck, he was only two and it was unreasonable to assume I would be everyone’s favorite person.

Eventually, Michael turned five. Two things happened at his five-year mark. One was good, the other not so much. The not so much is the ever present, still with us, black cloud of the Coronavirus. I haven’t seen as much of my local grandchildren as I did before this pandemic and when I do it’s outside in their backyard, all of us wearing masks and social distancing, no hugs or kisses or even holding hands.

The good news is they haven’t forgotten me and still look forward to my visits, real and virtual. I’ve also learned to play chess. Michael and I play virtual chess several times a week. (He’s very good for a five-year-old. As for me, using a different standard, I’m improving but still only fair) Occasionally we play soccer and badminton in the back yard and card games in real time. Snap and War are our favorites. Michael is still not over the top with his affection, except when it comes to his mother who is his favorite human, but he’s pleased to see me when our paths cross. I can live with that.

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