Shannon lives 150 miles away. She was just barely six years old when she stayed with us during the week leading up to Christmas. Her mom, our daughter, had just had her 3rd baby so hubby and I thought we’d give said daughter a break by taking her hyper-chatty oldest daughter home with us.
To our amazement there were no tears of homesickness — at least not from Shannon. She takes life as it comes with all the curiosity and sense of adventure a six-year old can possess. We knew what to expect from her. Early morning wakings. Perpetual motion from arising until going to bed for the night. Even during sleep we couldn’t count on the motion to cease.
During the fourth night, when I went into her room to check on her, I discovered it was all cleaned up. It was a mess when she went to bed and I had charged her with the task of tidying it up in the morning. Apparently not able to sleep with work left undone she quietly went about picking up all her clothes and toys. Clothes, dirty or clean, went in their proper places. Toys however were completely rearranged. Trucks previously stored under the bed were moved to the shelves, baskets of toys from the shelves were stored under the bed. The stuffed animals from a large basket were placed in a big cardboard box and my books, in want of a bookcase, were in the basket. (I had told her two days earlier that I couldn’t put the books in the cardboard box because the box would become too heavy for me to lift. She must have remembered my reasoning when she chose the basket for my books.)
I marveled at her ability, at six years and one week of age, to think through the problems organizing her room presented and come up with credible solutions.
Shannon wouldn’t be a normal young child if she never got homesick during her stay,but her meltdowns were mild and brief and usually the result of getting scolded for a transgression or being denied something she wanted to do. Then the tearful request to call her mom would come. Suspecting that her distress had more to do with a dislike of her present circumstances and not a true sense of homesickness I would find a way to distract her with a book or toy, or make a funny face to cause her to laugh. The tears would disappear and the sunshine in her eyes would return.
On the second to the last night at our home our young granddaughter asked me to cuddle with her by lying next to her on the bed as she settled down to sleep. I couldn’t refuse. What a fine chance to snuggle and talk about those things that were important to her. Refusing to admit that she was sleepy or tired, she was willing to acknowledge that her toes were tired, her knees were tired, and her ears, neck and eyes were tired. Her mouth, however, was not tired she said as she giggled. No surprise there!
The subject of her mom came up and Shannon said she missed her. “Why do you miss her,” I asked?
“Because I love her,” she answered.
“Do you love me?”
“I love you Nonni, but I love Mommy most,” Shannon replied.
Knowing that her feelings for her mom were natural, I nevertheless asked why she loved her Mommy most and if she didn’t love me, her Nonni, just as much.
“I love Mommy most because I don’t see you very much, Nonni.”
It was true. Because of the cost of traveling we hadn’t seen each other very often in the past year and I missed spending time with her. She didn’t even realize she had expressed a natural trait of being human. Relationships require close proximity and time spent together to maintain a strong feeling of closeness and love.
As I left her room I pondered Shannon’s words. How wise.