7: Spoiled Sweet

7: Spoiled Sweet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Spoiled Sweet

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.

~Alex Haley

My mom was a master when it came to spoiling her grandchildren, regularly doling out salty snacks, crunchy candy, and toys galore. Though I repeatedly asked Mom to dial back the spoiling, my pleas fell on deaf ears.

“I’m just so grateful that they’re mine to spoil!” she would say.

Mom would take the boys grocery shopping for taco meat and shredded cheese but come home with ice cream and Cheez-Its. She introduced my sons to Diet Coke, cotton candy, and cap guns before they even started preschool. If she heard the kids wanted a toy, she’d go and get it immediately. Every time she visited she baked sugar cookies with my kids. Not only did my boys remain on a sugar high for a solid week following her stay but I would be stuck cleaning up spilled sprinkles and bits of dried dough for days.

The thing that bothered me most, however, was that my children preferred my mom to me. This was true mostly of my older son Kyler, probably because he and I lived with my parents for a stretch of time while I was going through my divorce.

We had moved in with Mom and Dad the November when Kyler was two. I had custody of Kyler for Christmas that year, and I eagerly anticipated Christmas morning with him. I envisioned him barreling into my room and jumping on my bed, squealing about Santa. Instead, I heard the pitter-patter of tiny feet scamper past my bedroom door at 7 a.m. and head into my parents’ room. Then I heard him shouting, “Grandma! Let’s go see what Santa brought!” My heart sank. It hurt playing second fiddle.

As he grew older, Kyler often chose to confide in his grandma instead of me. If he had questions about the birds and the bees, he called Mom. If he had a run-in with a bully, he talked it through with Mom. If he got in trouble at school, he spilled his guts to Mom.

I longed for my mom’s glory to fade so that I could be more important in my child’s life. But you know how the saying goes: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Nearly four years ago, Mom died tragically and unexpectedly. Just like that, the spoiling stopped. The confiding stopped. The world stopped. I was angry with myself for having resented my mom for doting on her grandkids. I was ashamed for being jealous of her bond with my son. I should have been more thankful. I should have been more tolerant. I should have spoiled her more.

For months, I barely functioned as I processed my feelings of grief, grace, and gratitude. Then one day, about six months after Mom died, Kyler came down the stairs wearing pants that were too short and a shirt that was too tight.

I scratched my head.

What gives? I thought.

Then it hit me. My mom had always been the boys’ primary shopper so I wasn’t in the habit of buying them new clothes. It wasn’t at all unusual for her to show up at my door with bags of clothes. “I was wandering through Macy’s and found myself in the boys’ department,” she would say. “I just couldn’t help myself!”

I chuckled at her shopping addiction and thanked her for the purchases, but I never fully appreciated how well she took care of my sons — or me. Her support for us was unparalleled and unconditional.

When I was a teenager, she helped me survive anorexia. When I was an adult, she helped me survive my divorce. When I was a mother, she helped me after I had hand surgery and was unable to unscrew a sippy cup lid, buckle my kid into his car seat, or even squeeze a shampoo bottle. Time after time, Mom came to my rescue.

And then there were those little things that meant so much. Every time she visited when my sons were infants, she offered to take the baby monitor so that I could sleep in. She would cheer me up by baking my favorite homemade honey wheat bread.

It’s no wonder Kyler adored my mom. She told the best bedtime stories and gave the best back scratches. She offered the best hugs and baked the best goodies. She was the best listener and doled out the best advice. And while it’s true that she never said “no” when the kids asked for cookies or candy, she also never turned down an invitation to crawl into a tent made of sheets and blankets despite her back pain. Her rule was that if it made the grandkids happy, she was in.

I always worried that Mom would spoil the children rotten, but the truth was that my boys came out kind, loving, and giving, just like their grandmother. So I guess you could say she spoiled them sweet. And she did the same for me. I learned how to parent by following her example, and that’s why now, when my sons come to me with questions that span every topic — from sports to sex, school to scandals, Santa to Satan — I’m able to answer with truth, love, and good advice.

My younger son, Trevyn, was only two years old when Mom died, so I worried that he wouldn’t have any memories of his grandma. He’s six now and the other day I asked him if he remembers Grandma Heitger.

“Yes!” Trevyn exclaimed. “She made roll-out cookies with me!” Tears sprang to my eyes. The cookies. He remembered the cookies. I smiled as I recalled sweeping up those stray sprinkles and scraping bits of dried dough from my kitchen cabinets. It turns out it was worth the mess to make the memories.

“I have an idea,” I said. “How would you boys like to help me bake some melt-in-your-mouth homemade honey wheat bread?”

“I dunno,” Kyler hesitated, recognizing that this food wouldn’t result in a sugar high.

“It’s Grandma’s recipe,” I said.

His eyes lit up. “Oh?”

“I’ll need help stirring the dough and rolling it out,” I said.

“You mean, like cookies?” Trevyn asked.

“Yeah, kind of,” I said. “But you also have to punch the dough and really put some muscle into it.”

Trevyn grinned. I could tell what he was thinking: “What could be better than punching food?”

“I’ll do it!” he said, then added, “Wait. Will there be sprinkles?”

“Sure, why not?”

If we were going to celebrate the spirit of a woman who knew how to deliciously spoil people, festive sprinkles atop a loaf of bread seemed fitting.

“I’m so glad you’re my mom,” Trevyn said, as he reached for the measuring cups.

“Me, too,” Kyler added. “We have the best mom in the world.”

I knew how they felt. I had the best mom, too.

~Christy Heitger-Ewing

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