Monday, July 4, 2011

The Icing Years

Raising children can be kind of like mixing cake batter.  You take your basic kiddos and add things like music lessons, swimming lessons, Sunday School, and Little League baseball.  You stir in a pinch of patience, a dab of discipline, and try to hold the mixer on medium.  You throw in this ingredient and that ingredient, and hope that the cake-to-be rises to an appropriate level and smells good while it bakes.  These are The Batter Years--the time you spend raising your own children at home.

With grandkids you enter The Cake Years.  You get these occasional little servings of sweetness, kind of like the dessert following a full-course meal.  It is this occasional nature that allows you to enjoy these so much more than you enjoyed the batter stage.  Grandchildren cause you to always scrape the plate for crumbs and wish for one more bite.  The Cake Years are your reward for a batter diligently mixed and capably baked.  Thankfully, the modern human life span is such that most of us Boomers are able to get to the dessert bar and perhaps go back for seconds or thirds.  Not only can we "have our cake and eat it too," but we can do this repeatedly for as many grandchildren as we are blessed with.

A precious few of us are lucky enough to see our blessings stretch even beyond The Cake Years.   Although we do nothing to deserve it, we find ourselves and our children occupying the middle spots of a four-generation phenomenon in which our grandkids can know and interact with both of our own parents.  At this point, I will coin a phrase and call these The Icing Years.  Not all cakes get to have icing, but I can't think of anything sweeter than when they do.

As my oldest grandchild celebrates her fourth birthday this week, I celebrate for myself four wonderful Icing Years.  My husband did not get this opportunity, nor will many of my friends.  But in these years I have been privileged to watch my parents in action as great-grandparents. I watched Dad win Sooby's affections with a sticky cherry sucker before she had ever even tasted much solid food.  I have heard Mom read to Sooby the same stories out of the same books she read to me and my own children.  I have watched Dad chuckle and try to defend himself in a wild game of catch with Pooh.  Once again, I have watched Mom sway and heard her sing "Rockabye Baby" as she cradles Bootsie at rest.

I love the way the kids call Mom and Dad by their first names and the way they will head straight to their kitchen to check out the snack scene.  I love the way Mom dumps out her big laundry basket of toys and, at age 86, sits down on the living room carpet to build a wood block tower or thread a string of beads.  I appreciate every time I get to watch as some invisible bridge spans a gap of over 82 years.  When my grandchildren are with my parents, the experience is timeless.  No, it is magical.  No, it is delicious.

These are my Icing Years.  I run my finger over the plate to gather every bit of this precious, sweet stuff.  I close my eyes and run my tongue over my lips.  I never, ever want to forget what icing tastes like.       


  1. So beautiful and yet so bittersweet. I will never experience those icing years as both my parents are already gone and my son has no children yet. I'm just hoping for the cake years before I am too old and feeble to pick the little ones up and toddle to the rocker with them. :0)

  2. This was such a bittersweet post for me since I recently lost my dad, my grandkids' last great-grandparent. But my oldest grandchild is 19, so we enjoyed lots of icing years. They were indeed precious!

  3. Beautiful and while I am glad for you I am also very jealous. My Mom, Amara's only living great grandparent is in Michigan and they have only met once over webcam. It was wonderful -- I just haven't had much of it.

  4. Wonderful post. All of the great-grandparents in our family are gone now gone, but the kids did get to know and love one set and it was as you describe magically for everyone involved. They still talk about them today, and we plant zinnias, their favorite annual, every summer to enjoy and remind us of them.

  5. Sweet analogy and a wonderful post. My mom and dad are very low-key and mostly uninvolved great-grandparents. You and your parents—and especially the grandkids—are truly blessed by these icing years.

  6. I love all your stories but THIS ONE TAKES THE CAKE!!
    This was such a wonderful analogy and so beautifully written...tears in my eyes about half way through and still here.

    I am blessed by my mama still being alive and able to enjoy my grandson when I take him out there to visit too. I am printing this out ( or copying it to Word or whatever ) so that I can read it to her when I am visting there again

  7. My oh my oh my! I think Debra is right. This one TAKES THE CAKE! This is so beautiful! I want to pin it, facebook it and do everythinhg I can to share it beacuse it's just so delicious....Thank you for sharing it on Grandparent's Say It Saturday.

  8. Wonderful post. Really made me think of the 4 years of icing we had before my grandmother passed away. I think some people thought it was a little crazy for me to fly down to take my kids to spend time with their grandmother every 3 months for 4 years, it was worth it.