Celebrate Grandparents Day

There is no way I could ever repay my parents for all they have done for my children. Yet every time Ted and I drop the kids off and head out, they make it seem as if we are doing them the favor.

Honestly, I’m behind by about 1.3 million thank-yous. Life just keeps rolling, and I try to file them all away in my mind to properly address one day – the fact that they paid for everyone’s waterpark admission at Maria’s mermaid party, the way Mom has worked with Jane on animals and Maria on letters, the playhouse Dad built for them, the music lessons, the gardening tutorials, the hours and hours of books, the hundreds of diaper changes – but I forget to articulate half of them.

As grandparents, they are so central to our lives. They help in such formidable ways, both practical and profound.

So I’m planning to extend a thank-you – however inadequate it may be – on Grandparents Day, which falls this Sunday, Sept. 11. (Yes, it’s an official day. President Jimmy Carter proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. This website even created a social-media toolkit for the day and encourages you to use the hashtag #TakeAGrandie. You can guess what that is...)

I’m going to begin by finally attempting a handwritten card for each…the one I’ve been drafting in my head for many months now.  

Then I’m going to give them the gift of time: a sweet-and-simple outing for the whole family to one of our favorite places, Afton Apple Orchard in Hastings. It is the place of so many cherished family memories.

 It will be a gift to just be together in the golden cast of the autumn sun: picking apples, searching for pumpkins, piling in for a hayrack ride, posing behind those vintage hole-in-the-head stands, enjoying the petting zoo, tackling the playground.  

I'm giving my dad a gift certificate to Gertens in Inver Grove Heights, where families will soon be flocking for their Pumpkin Fest.

Dad has been so good about taking the girls with him to Gerten's, where they've learned so much and made wonderful Grandpa-granddaughter memories. 

 

It makes my heart so happy to see Dad's devotion to his grandkids. He is the best grandpa in the world! He makes a point to spend quality time bonding with the girls, learning all their interests, celebrating their milestones and spurring them along. He painted his basement to make it a more fun play space and surprised the girls with big, bright posters of their favorite movies.

Simply put, he is a man of great character, and I know it is rubbing off on my kids. What more could I ask for? 

This summer Dad and Maria bought tomatoes from Gertens and planted them in his backyard together. 

What resulted was almost a case of Jack-and-the-Beanstalk magic; the tomato plants kept growing and growing and growing. We have been well fed all summer long, and Maria is quite proud to have provided such a harvest for her family.

I’m also giving Mom – our indefatigable Granny Nanny – a gift certificate to Aldi, the best place to stretch your dollar and buy lots of fresh produce and healthy food for little ones. We rely on Aldi in a big way!

It is part of a nearly daily dialogue. This morning, my mom emailed: "Just biked to Aldi. Eggs just 49 cents!" 

And we get great ideas from the section on Aldi's website full of kid-friendly recipes, including main dishes, sides and snacks. 

Mom has been beyond generous in feeding, clothing and caring for our girls. I think of all she has done for them – what she has taught them, how she has loved them. I think of the countless times she’s bent down to wipe those cheeks and that high-chair tray, of the songs and the puppets and the prayers – and my eyes well up with tears.

It has been the greatest gift, one I can never repay, and it will continue to reap fruits for the rest of our lives.

Her influence on the girls runs deep. So much of her bright spirit shines in them. Her optimism. Her spunk. Her joyful spirituality. She has modeled resilience: to brush yourself off, laugh it off and get back up again.

She has taught the girls not to be deterred by a little rain.

She has coached them to be problem solvers, to be kind and silly and strong. She is. And so are they.

(Yes, Mom is wearing a bumblebee costume.) 

I’ll never forget the time we were at the 3M summer picnic and Maria eyes widened in wonder as she watched my mom flying high in one of those harnessed trampolines.

Namma’s courage became Maria’s.

Soon Maria was strapped in.

She soared, letting the warm summer breeze wash over her, throwing her head back in fits of giggles.

Because of her grandma, she could fly.

When the love of a grandparent dwells in you, you can do anything.  

 


 Christina Ries is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and two young girls in Inver Grove Heights. Write her at christina@mnparent.com.