This is a guest post from my sister Leisa.
Mark claims that grandparents are the magical people who calm down cranky children. I can’t refute the pictures Mark posted, but I would argue that there is an extra-special bond between aunts and uncles and their nieces and nephews. Mark and I grew up far away from our extended family, so we didn’t spend much time with our grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins without our parents close by. Over the last few months, Elena has had the chance to go on extended family adventures without her parents. Like many children, she’s displayed a special attitude when her parents aren’t around to guide her through a new situation.
Adventure 1: To the Mountains
When our oldest brother’s family was visiting from out of state, Elena wanted nothing more than to spend time with her rambunctious and adventurous cousins. Her aunt and Grandma convinced Mark and Jenny that she should go hiking with us at a favorite Mountain Park, then stay overnight and meet up with her parents when they came to dinner at Grandma and Grandpa’s house the next day.
Elena doesn’t act differently when her parents aren’t around, but there is something about those situation that feels liberating. Elena felt comfortable and safe enough to walk right up the middle of the stream like her older cousins, and she also got to search for mud puppies, fish for minnows, and enjoy splashing all around.
She simply expected someone to be there to balance her as she walked up the stream on the slippery rocks and through the deeper pools. She trusted herself to be able to balance–a skill she didn’t quite have the strength for, so I ended up hauling both of us up the river. At lunch she loved eating nearly unlimited cheetos and cookies.
Adventure 2: To the Shore
While Jenny and Mark were at the hospital for Roman’s birth, Elena had an adventure of her own with us. We spent the first day having fun (and not doing much napping or sleeping) at Grandma’s house, and then we went to the beach.
Unfortunately, Elena was overwhelmed by the waves, which wouldn’t obey when she told them to stop. She definitely preferred the water in the mountain stream of our previous adventure because it only came up to her knees at the deepest spots. Luckily, she did enjoy digging in the sand and chasing seagulls.
For some reason, she decided that the best way to show her love for the sand was to lay face-down in it and tell her two doting aunts to cover her with sand. Originally, we had encouraged her to let us cover her feet with the sand, but she liked that enough to have us cover her and Grandma with it. Elena giggled as we covered her just enough before she broke free, only to want to be covered again.
When it was time to go make the drive back to meet new baby Roman, Elena was very sad to go. She fussed through having at least four people try to wash the sand off of her–maybe she didn’t know the bundle of joy and the extreme changes that were awaiting her.