By: Sandy Churchill
People say grandparenthood holds a joy like no other experience—brimming with all the blessings of Mamahood but without the degree of worry and responsibility. Sure, we Mimis/Nanas/Grammys worry about our grandkids and want the best for them, but we get to embrace the fun, adventure, and memory-making moments without the all-nighters with teething infants, full-on responsibility for discipline, or the not-fun doctor visits for vaccines and such.
What I did not anticipate as a “rookie Nana” was a particular experience granted by my first grandchild, baby Henry. At 20 months, he is a pint-sized charming little “major” at his house or ours, or even out on errands. Whenever he encounters someone new—the grocery store clerk, my teenager’s piano teacher, another relative or friend—he has a lovely practice of “claiming” me or his Papa or even his cool Uncle Tim.
He either hugs one of us or simply stands protectively and announces, “Nana” or “Papa” or “Tim” to the stranger at hand. He is “claiming” each of us as if to announce we are his people, his tribe, to the new person he is meeting for the first time.
This feeling of being “claimed” as Henry’s Nana is a sweet surprise and something I never imagined. Beyond introductions, there is a sense of protection, pride, and ownership, as in “this is my Nana” or “this is my Uncle Tim” or “this is Papa.” I am not certain if this is a security measure for safety or reassurance reasons, as if he is establishing his territory or home boundary, or if it is a matter of pride in his circle as he welcomes new people into his routine.
Reflecting on this concept of feeling “claimed” or belonging, I found the idea to be a universal one among human beings. Isn’t that what we all want in some way? Aside from the quintessential “fitting in”, don’t we all want to be accepted, known, and valued as individuals?
There is a craving among each of us to be seen, understood, and loved for who we are. Sweet baby Henry doesn’t have the capacity to accept part of his Nana or Papa or Uncle Tim. He isn’t old enough to criticize or reject traits he doesn’t like. So he accepts and claims us fully, flaws and all. How insightful is it for this precious grandboy, not yet two years old, to share such acceptance as a toddler?
I considered those in my life whom I would “claim” in my circle—family members, close friends, and even community members who share a vision or passion for certain projects, charities, or hobbies. In turn, I reflected on those who “claim” me. This idea stirred a lovely wash of gratitude. No one truly wants to be an island, and baby Henry was ensuring this wasn’t the case for his Nana, Papa, and Uncle Tim, among others.
This lovely practice may not linger long. There will come a time when he may not stand guard and introduce us to the newcomer or unexpected guest. But I hope the feeling of “claiming” his family will last forever.