We grandmas always try to do the right thing. But sometimes, despite our best intentions, we mess up and our grandchildren never let us forget it.
When I was eight years old, my grandma and my aunt took my cousin and me downtown on the bus to go shopping. When they got off at their stop, they left me on the bus. The bus was packed with holiday shoppers and my grandma assumed I was getting off the front of the bus with my aunt. As soon as the bus pulled away, she realized I was missing and began flagging down the bus to stop and let me off.
Fortunately, the bus driver saw her waving and pulled over to let me off. I barely even knew I’d been abandoned. My grandma and her sister were relieved to have me back in their charge. To this day, it’s one of the stories that gets told at our family gatherings … remember when Grandma Gertrude left you on the bus? It’s my eight-year-old granddaughter’s favorite story.
Another of her favorite grandma blunder stories happened when her mother (my daughter) was two years old. Both of her great-grandmas were babysitting for her when she got her head stuck in the arm of her little rocking chair. My two grandmas tried to extract her. When they couldn’t, they ran out in the street and stopped a mailman to help them. My granddaughter laughs hysterically every time I describe my two grandmas running from the house and calling for help.
These two stories make for memorable family lore and can become a badge of courage for the victim when presented in a lighthearted tone.
I’m hoping that my five-year old granddaughter will be able to laugh and tell the story of my own grandma blunder when she gets older, too. But it may take a few years.
My blunder happened on the eve of her fifth birthday this past weekend. We were away on a four-generation celebration/vacation that included my 89-year old mother, my two granddaughters, their parents, and my husband.
The five-year old and I walked over to my mother’s room to get her for dinner. On our way back, my granddaughter kept running ahead, despite my pleas to wait for me. When we got to our building, she wanted to race up the stairs to the third floor while my mother and I took the elevator. Since we’d been there three days and the stairway was open and visible, I agreed to let her run ahead.
When my mom and I got out of the elevator, I heard my granddaughter wailing at the top of her lungs and calling “Baba!” I was terrified that she’d fallen and I rushed to find her. She was on the second floor when I reached her. She pushed me away despite my attempts to comfort her. She only wanted her older sister, who picked her up and carried her up to our room.
I didn’t realize what had happened until my son-in-law explained a moment later. My granddaughter had knocked on the wrong door, one floor below ours. When a man opened the door, she got scared and started crying. He thought she was lost and said, “Come here and let me help you,” the dreaded phrase all parents warn their children to run away from!
My daughter was horrified. She took my granddaughter into her bedroom and shut the door. I knew I was in deep doo-doo! When I knocked on the door, my granddaughter told me to go away. I was heart-broken and felt guilty for my poor judgment. Fifteen minutes later, I knocked again and this time she said to come in and let me give her a hug. I apologized and said how sorry I was that she’d gotten scared.
I was humbled by the experience and, after the girls went to sleep, I expected a lecture from my daughter. But I was pleasantly surprised when she handled it very calmly. She suggested that I keep my granddaughter with me when I’m watching out for my mother. My husband thought it would also be helpful to make sure the children get oriented to their new location when we go on vacation.
The experience made a big impression on my granddaughter. I hope the next time I call for her to wait for me, she’ll follow directions. I’m also hoping that in a few years, we’ll all be able to add this story to our family lore without cringing.
Do you have a story of a memorable or regrettable grandma blunder? We’d love to hear it.