The defining moment of our week at the lake with Caroline’s parents took place last Monday morning, in their driveway. We were loading up for a 45-minute drive to visit some family friends when Jay declared: “I want to ride with Grammy.”
“But the car seat is already in our car,” I explained.
“I want to ride with Grammy,” Jay repeated, and after a minute he got his way
The exchange was notable for how much Jay has changed in a year. When we visited Caroline’s parents at the lake last year the mere suggestion of being left alone with Grammy was enough to send then 15-month-old Jay into hysterics. Twice Grammy tried to take him for an early morning breakfast so Caroline and I could sleep in. Both times the experimented ended with Jay screaming his way back into bed with us.
But a year later Jay knows a good thing when he sees it. This past week he and Grammy went to the supermarket together, to the beach together, sat on the floor for hours making tall towers out of blocks together, perfected their swan walk together, and generally hung close like two people who had found in each other the exact person in the world they want to be spending time with.
Caroline and I discussed Jay’s growing comfort with a wider range of people as we followed her parent’s car down Virginia Route 3. It was a strange feeling to be talking and driving without Jay in the car. With Wally so quiet in the backseat you could easily imagine he wasn’t there, Caroline and I felt for a moment like empty nesters.
We agreed it made us proud to see Jay off on his own—proud that he is a little more grown-up and a little more independent, and proud, too, to see Caroline’s mom delight in the company of our effervescent son.
But I also told Caroline that I felt a little wistful watching Jay’s world expand. I imagined Jay riding up ahead, having an experience all is own: taking in the sights and smells of an unfamiliar car, listening to the rhythms and tones of voices that are less familiar than my or Caroline’s, thrilling on a sub-conscious level to being away from Mom and Dad.
Thinking about Jay with his Grammy reminded me of the role my own grandparents played in introducing me to independence. Before I had real friends, or a girlfriend, or my own family, I had my grandparents, Joan and Art, who were just far enough removed from my parents to give me the space to begin to see myself.
They were the first people I talked with regularly on the phone, the first people I traveled by myself to visit, the first people I thought might understand me better than my parents did. Eventually the room I needed to grow went beyond the experiences I could have with them, but for a while—maybe until I was 10 or 11—the world seemed expansive when we were together.
It made me proud of Jay that he’s ready to begin developing his own relationships, and happy that there are so many people on both sides of our family who are excited to form those relationships with him. But at the same time there were moments this past week at the lake when I felt a touch of jealousy at how thick Jay’s become with his Grammy—jealous, even though I know it’s silly, that there are things he gets from her that he doesn’t get from me.
So it was, then, that after we’d returned from the car trip, and after Jay had been put to bed, my heart did a little dance when Jay woke up crying in the night and the first words out of his mouth were “I want Daddy.”