A Matter of Trust
BY JOEY LATTERMAN
I remember my grandma standing in her kitchen, with pin curls in her hair and an apron with pockets over her dress. Greeting me with a “Land sakes, look at you growing up so fast every time I see you,” she’d pull me in for a hug and then get right back to her baking, sewing or mending. Certainly, this six month old grandson I’m rocking to sleep, will never have that image of me. It’s weird to even think of myself as a grandma. Grandmas always seemed so old.
Yet, when I look down at this little guy snuggled into the crook of my arm, I wonder how I could have ever lived without him. I’m so content breathing in his sweet baby smell and gazing at his face. His smooth fingers on top of my crepey arm offer testimony to our ages. My life is far from over, but there is so much ahead for him; so much to learn.
I want to protect him from any discomfort, from pain, from anxiety, knowing full well how futile that is. What is not futile is responding to his needs so that he learns to trust. If he cries and no one listens, what does that teach him? In this day and age, I’m close to obsessed with the importance of cultivating empathy. I held and cuddled my babies, day and night. Far from being spoiled, they are caring, responsible, self-confident adults, demonstrating the benefits of attachment.
It almost seems cruel to me to put this little guy in a bed by himself to be listened to by a baby monitor- a lonely proposition for someone so little and dependent.
But this isn’t my baby- it’s my daughter’s baby. I didn’t start out knowing what I know now about being a mother. I grew into it, through trial and error until I learned what felt best for the mother in me. I think about Winnicott’s idea of a “good enough mother” and how mothers become that. They learn it through trusting their own instincts not through a know-it-all grandma. So if she tries mothering her way and I do it my way, what will that teach her? Not trust. Listening to her though, doesn’t preclude some guidance along the way.
My treasured grandson shifts in my arms. As he sighs, I feel that telling heaviness that he’s asleep. Time to put this guy in his crib on his back in his own room- the crib with no blankets and bumper pads and a cold sheet.
He squirms and fusses a little when I lay him down, so I gently pat his chest and hum some more songs, until he’s quiet again, then tiptoe out. I’ll stay close by in case he fusses. The fussing starts 15 minutes later. I start to go back into his room, but my daughter notices and says, “Uh-huh, mom. Let him try and go back to sleep on his own.”
“For how long,” I ask.
“How about six?”
She smiles and nods.
Was that trust with a little guidance ? Too much? We’ll learn together. A passing of the generational baton wrapped with love and sprinkled with sticky spots.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JOEY LATTERMAN
Along with being a grandma, I Am a retired teacher and social worker. I volunteer as a bereavement counselor for Hospice of Lansing, am active promoting political candidates, knit needed community items, go up north for the summer and travel with my husband.