“What Had Given Only Me The Right To Love This Little Boy?”

Story by Patricia Pinney

We were sitting in the crowded auditorium waiting for the program to view the performance of our seven-year old grandson, Tanner, in his school’s annual Christmas pageant.

It was difficult to say who was more excited — the children or the audience. I looked around and spotted my son and his wife, with their four-month old baby boy, and Tanner’s maternal grandparents seated several rows behind us. We acknowledged each other with a smile and a wave.

Then I saw them – Tanner’s “biological” paternal grandparents. My son and Tanner’s mother had dated briefly as sixteen-year-olds, split up, then became reacquainted shortly after their high school graduation when Tanner was just six months old. Even though my daughter-in-law had never married Tanner’s father, his parents had fought for grandparents’ rights and won. Tanner may call my son “Daddy”, but Tanner is bound by court order to go every other weekend for visitation with the parents of his “biological” father.

We had taken Tanner into our hearts as our own, and we weren’t very willing to share him.

This had always been a particular sore spot for me. We did not know them well, and I feared the worst when he went with them on their weekend. In retrospect, we should have viewed it as commendable that they were interested enough in Tanner to pay a lawyer and go through the complicated legal system.

So there we were, separated by a few rows of folding chairs. There were only a few instances where we had been thrown together, and each of these meeting had been uncomfortable. I saw the woman look at us, nudge her husband, and whisper in his ear. He immediately looked back at us as well.

My ears were burning as if on fire. I attempted to remember why we were here — our common bond, a child that meant so much to us.

Shortly thereafter the program started, and for the next hour we were enthralled. Before we knew it, the lights were on, and we were gathering our things to leave. We followed the crowd into the hall and searched for our grandson.

We soon found him, and suddenly three sets of grandparents were thrown together, each waiting for our turn in congratulating Tanner on a fine performance. We eyed each other and spoke a brief “hello”.

Finally, it was our turn to hug Tanner and discuss his job well done. His eyes were shining brightly, and he was obviously proud to be the object of so much adoration.

I leaned down to hear what he was saying. “Grandma, I’m so lucky!” Tanner exclaimed, clapping his hands together.

“Because you did such a fine job?” I innocently asked.

“No, because all my favorite people are here! My Mom, Dad, little brother, and all my grandmas and grandpas are here together, just to see me!”

I looked up, stunned at his remark.

My eyes met those of the “other” grandma, and I could see she was feeling the same shame as I was. I was horrified at my thoughts and feeling over all these years.

What had given only me the right to love this little boy? They obviously loved him as much as we did, and he obviously loved each of us. They had no doubt had their own fears about us. How could we have been so blind?

As I looked around, I could see we were all ashamed of our previous feelings on this subject. We visited briefly and said our good-byes and went our separate ways.

I’ve thought a lot about our encounter that night, and I admit that I feel that a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I don’t fear Tanner’s weekend visits like I used to.

I discovered that we all had the same agenda — to love a little boy who truly belongs to all of us.

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