By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian
“The joy of my life.”
Even if you can’t see her, when you hear Valerie Snider Jordan talk about her grandchildren, you can hear the pride and love in her voice.
Emma Grace Jordan and Ryker Albert Jordan II are stepbrother and stepsister. Emma, 7, lives in Clarksburg with her mom, and Ryker, 3, lives in Fairmont with his mom. Their dad is Randall Albert Jordan II, Valerie Jordan’s son.
She and Mark Jordan have been together for 10 years. She has three grown children from another marriage — Randall, Brandon and Garrett — and he has two, Lauren and Ian. That in itself makes for a happy family.
Then there are the grands.
“They make me relive my childhood,” she said. “They keep me young. They make me see everything all over again through their eyes. All the joys you had with your kids, you relive that with the grandchildren. This time it’s even better because now you have the time and patience to be with them.”
She’s also more relaxed with her grands. Playing with them appeals to her inner child, she said.
“We play for fun,” she said.
“I’m more at ease with them than I was with my kids. We let them walk in the mud puddles, play with the dog, paint. They run outside in their bare feet in the rain. Anything they want, we make it happen.
“I remember when my kids wanted to play with the dog, it was a rare thing. It’s weird how you change.
“Now it’s like, ‘Grandma, can I get the paint out?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s my house.’ (The parents) can’t say much.”
“This is a love you can actually indulge in and not be concerned about the time. It’s hard to describe. You know you love your kids. But with grandchildren, you’re more protective. You remember what your kids have been through and you try to protect them.
“You remember the hurts, the disappointments, the little things you know they’re going to experience. You know what’s coming up.”
So when she leaves after visiting them, she’ll call back to double check. Did she leave the heater on? Is everything OK?
“I’m so worried something’s going to happen. I guess I’m a helicopter parent, still trying to run their lives.”
She’s having the time of her life with the grands.
“They’re so honest and so bright. They know so much stuff. When I take them to the creek, they’ll squeal with delight of the coldness of the waterfall in the morning. They enjoy nature. We take them on the trails, on picnics. We’ll stay all day and camp. We take them to places you don’t typically take a kid.”
They love helping Grandma and Granddad with farm chores, too, like feeding the animals. And they do the usual grandma-grandkid things, like baking and decorating cookies.
She and Ryker are also in to superheroes in a big, big way.
“We like to dress in costume. I was Thor for Halloween. I also have Wonder Woman and Mystique from X-Men. We dress up like superheroes together. I’m sure the neighbors don’t do that,” she said, laughing.
They’ll turn on the “Star Wars” theme and march around the dining room table or do “Hulk” exercises to a song Ryker thinks is the big guy’s theme song.
“Oh, we have lots of fun,” Jordan said.
And when Emma comes over, it’s back to school for Jordan.
“I’ve got this old-fashioned desk my sister handed down to me. Ryker and I have to be the students and Emma’s the teacher. She likes to be in charge.
“She really gets into it. She’ll write our names down, whether we’re here, hot or cold lunch. She’ll make us draw stuff and if it’s not exactly like hers, she makes us do it over.”
The mother of three sons, she was told about Emma in a special way.
“When my son knew she’d be a girl, he told me, ‘You’re going to have that girl you always wanted.’ I was elated.”
Some people back away from grandparenthood, thinking it’s a sure sign they’re getting older. Not her.
“I didn’t think about the age thing. I never have.”
Any hesitation a grandparent-to-be has will melt away the first time she holds that baby, she said.
“That’s the best thing, having those babies in your arms and just thinking about when your kids were in your arms and reliving it.
“It’s like writing a book and opening up a whole new chapter.”
As much as you adore your grandchildren, one of the best things (as any grandparent will tell you) is handing them back to the parents.
“Mine will stay the weekend. By the end of that, I’m spent. It’s nice to have them. I love them to death and get them a lot, but when it’s time for them to go, I’m ready,” she said, laughing.
“We’re still busy, active people. I think our kids forget we’re not complacent like grandparents were back in the day.”
If you’re about to join this special club, she’s got some advice for you.
“Sit back and do exactly what I said. Enjoy watching them. Try not to give too much advice. Let them show you the world through their eyes. You would never believe the things they know already.
“Read to them a lot, a book a night, even if they can’t read.
“Listen and play and sit back. Who cares if they make a mess? You can clean it up after they’re gone.”
Email Debra Minor Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.