The cookies started around when my daughter turned 2 years old. The first one her grandfather gave her made me cringe. Maya hadn’t had many sweets, and just as I guessed, it wound her up for a good, unruly, hour. Her grandfather was overjoyed at her enthusiasm, and the cookies were waiting for her visit after visit.
In our family, we joke that Grandpa’s love language is cooking, and there’s nothing he loves more than to feed his family, except maybe to bake cookies for his granddaughter. Nana has joined in with a cookie cookbook that promises “50 family favorites,” and now that Maya is a little older, they’re baking cookies together, with the goal of trying every recipe in the book.
I’d be lying if I told you I don’t have concerns when it comes to sugar intake – tooth decay, childhood obesity, diabetes, and a host of other unfounded fears. However, they all took a back seat when I realized the beauty of what was really happening.
Grandpa and Nana have established a connection that will provide much more for my daughter than I and her father can provide alone. It’s unconditional love and it extends beyond baking cookies, it’s a thread that runs through everything Maya does with her grandparents. She knows she’s loved and accepted no matter what she does.
Psychologists agree that children who receive unconditional love and positive attention from adults other than their parents are more confident and resilient. Grandparents seem to be born for that role, and Maya’s grandparents gladly go above and beyond.
Maya is finding adventure, creativity, fun, and freedom with her grandparents too. They have figured out what makes her laugh, and they fill her head with stories of her father’s childhood, fishing in mud puddles and ice skating in the park across the street. Sure, they’re a little more permissive than we are, but when it comes to the values that really matter, they hit the mark every time.
My husband and I have learned to rely on our parents for parenting advice. Their perspective, a lens of time and distance, never disappoints, and the advice they give is somehow kinder and gentler than we remember. Raising children isn’t complicated, they remind us.
Maya’s Grandpa and Nana might not realize it, but they are also seeing some additional benefits to spending time with her. Recent studies have shown that grandparents who are engaged with their grandchildren are healthier and enjoy a better quality of life. They’re less likely to suffer from depression, and they can expect to live longer.
I was lucky to have my grandparents in my life well into adulthood. When I think of Maya and her grandpa’s cookies, I’m reminded of my own grandmother’s cookie jar and the many times when I would drop in to see my grandparents between college classes. My grandfather would make coffee and my grandmother would slide the cookie jar over in front of me and ask me how my day was going. Then, they would listen. My grandparents wouldn’t try to solve the day’s problems or offer an opinion, they just listened.
To be heard is a priceless gift when you’re finding your way in the world, and I have no doubt that the cookie connection Maya has with her grandparents is already helping her find her way in the world.
about the author…Laura Bailey is a freelance writer who lives in Red Lodge with her husband, 3-year-old daughter and two fun-loving dogs. They all share adventures in the mountains and on nearby rivers. Find Laura at penandlight.com.