There is not a role I take more seriously than being a grandmother. I want my three little people to know how much I love them and that I will do everything within my power to help provide them with a loving, safe and happy family life.
But man, oh man, these three little monkeys can wear me the heck out.
Granted, I'm not the vivacious, energetic woman at 61 that I was a few decades ago when I was raising my four children, but I'm nowhere near being put out to pasture. I still have a good amount of energy, so why do I sometimes find myself completely physically and mentally exhausted when they're in my care?
Why am I constantly questioning how I could have possibly raised four children? I must have been a martyr. I was always on the go with my kids because, on any given night, they either had swim practice, ballet, soccer or baseball. Some of the most meaningful conversations I had with any of my kids was in the car.
And, on top of that, I was a Girl Scout leader for six years, always a homeroom mother for at least one or two of my kids, and I was active in my church.
Then one day my kids were grown and gone. No more school activities, no more bedtimes, no more putting thousands of miles on my car each year. And, what was the saddest of all to me, no more swim meets. They left me. All of them. My babies just grew up and left me.
It wasn't all that long until something strange happened. I got used to them being gone. Fifteen loads of laundry each week turned to four. I started putting just 5,000 miles on my car each year instead of 10,000 or more. And I no longer had tuition payments. I could actually buy myself something every now and then without feeling guilty. Say what?
Sure, I missed them. For awhile, all four lived out West and I only saw them a few times a year. But they were doing what they wanted to do, and I was happy they were happy.
Then, one by one, they started coming back. At least three of them. And one of them brought back my first grandchild. That's when things began to change. My new mode of operation took an about-face. Instead of living the independent carefree lifestyle of hip baby boomer, I morphed back into mommy mode. And it was a thrilling, eye-opening transformation.
Today, I am now the grandmother of three -- Tilleigh, 7; Evie, 4, and William, 20 months -- and I am as involved in their lives as I was with my four children. They live next door. I see them on a near-daily basis. The children spend every other weekend, as well as every Wednesday night, with my husband and me, though we are still at one another's house almost every day.
I go to their sporting events, plays, swim meets, and I've taken them to the doctor on occasion. When they're sick, I'm sick (we're good at spreading germs through constant kissing; it's worth it to me). Years ago, I went from a five-day work week to a four-day week so I could spend an extra day with them.
My home is their home. In my living room alone there's three child-size recliners, a child's wooden table with four chairs, a chifferobe filled with toys, a three-story dollhouse in the corner and two plastic tubs filled with toys. Their photographs line my walls and shelves. My home is most definitely a child-friendly dwelling.
And best of all, there's lots of love in this house. After my children grew up and left the nest, there were years of quiet. Sure, my husband and I talked a lot, but in no way did it compare to the loud and joyous sounds of a child's laughter, or even a child's cries.
Nowadays, I'm back to my old role as nurse, teacher, mediator, chef and housekeeper. But I have a new title that means everything to me -- I'm a grandmother. And though sometimes I am a seriously exhausted grandmother, I am always thankful to have these three little people constantly in my life.
Even when I send them home.
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...