In 2018, a year after I turned 65, my daughter Lauren gifted me with my first grandson, Bo. I’d waited such a long time for the blessed event – so long that I often thought it would never happen. All four of my children were well into their thirties and taking their sweet old time with this phase of their lives. So, when it was announced he would arrive that August, I decided to research all the ways to be, and not to be, a new grandmother.

First on the list, and the most important, was to keep my mouth shut when my child and her partner were parenting their child. After all, I had my turn with my kids, and as with any generation, ideas on how babies should be raised have changed. What worked for me may not work for them.

Second, do the spoiling sparingly; be sure you have the parent’s permission to give treats and toys. Overindulging can turn a precious child into a monster.

Third, children are sponges who learn more by watching than by telling. If I were to truly be a role model for him and all subsequent grandchildren, I had to find ways to lead by example and not constant speeches.

But this last one I came up with and took to heart.

Long ago, when I was a child, I was forced to kiss relatives, whether or not they were an integral part of my life; often, I barely knew them. This was difficult enough, but what made it worse was when this rule extended beyond my family. My mother insisted I kiss a certain priest who often came for dinner. He was an alcoholic, and the smell of his recent overindulgence would hit me the moment he walked into the room. Being forced to kiss him gave me the creeps. Consequently, as Bo and then five more grandchildren came into my life, I’d tell their parents, “Please don’t force them to kiss me. They’ll do it in their own good time—or not.” And, oh, how the tables turned.

After a lovely stay in Austin with Lauren, her husband, and her now three boys, I was about to leave on a Tuesday when I forgot my own rule. I asked my second grandson, Mackie, “Honey, Grammie is going home. Is it okay if I kiss you goodbye?”

Looking up through his long lashes, he studied my face quietly and then replied, “Sorry, Grammie. I only give kisses on Fridays now. Maybe the next time you come to visit.”

Feeling crestfallen, I told him I’d wait for a time when he was feeling it, but before he ran off I asked, “Could we at least pinky touch?”

Again, studying my face, he smiled over the suggestion and lifted his right-hand baby finger to intertwine with mine. After a brief squeeze, he went off to play.

If you’ve been blessed with a grandchild, you know how they each bring something unique to the family table. Bo, Mackie’s older brother, who is almost six and my first grandchild, is my buddy. We have long talks about the mysteries of life, play cars and soldiers, and, of course, tackle football. He also taught me how to be a grandmother as I relearned the art of patience. I wanted to always handle him and any subsequent babies gently.

Mac was my affectionate one. Until he turned 3, there were lots of hugs and kisses, always followed by the words, “Grammie, I love you.” It was glorious. After all, what adult doesn’t want to be the center of affection from a little one? This change in his behavior signaled he was no longer a baby, but becoming a boy learning the art of boundaries.

In early April, he was about to turn four. I’d be visiting for Easter but couldn’t stay for his birthday. So, I decided to give him his gift while I was there. Opening the yellow Transformer (cars that magically turn into robots), his face lit up.

“Grammie, I love it! Are you sure you have to leave today? Why can’t you stay?”

“I’m sorry, honey. I wish I could, but it’s time for me to go,” I replied, sad that my time was over. Then, doing something I hadn’t since he was a baby, I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek without asking—even though it wasn’t Friday.

Beaming, he took his little hand and covered the spot where I’d planted it, then ran his hand up from the cheek to his forehead. Giggling, I asked, “Are you wiping my kiss away?”

Holding his toy close to his chest, he cocked his little head for a moment as he looked into my eyes; then, with all his sweet innocence, he informed me, “No, I wiped it to my brain so I could always remember it.” And off he ran once again.

Walking to my Uber, I felt the tears I’d held back run down my cheeks. When was the last time someone gave me the simplest gesture of a kiss that I wanted to hold in “my brain to remember forever”?

For several years, I’ve felt we live in a world filled with negativity and selfishness. All I ever have to do is watch the news to have this feeling confirmed. But that moment of adorability was a reminder that simple, loving gestures we give one another are an example of our shared humanity—that deep inside we want to be loved, feel love, and express love. On that day, I remembered reading long ago that “children were God’s way of saying the world must go on.”With his innocence, Mac lifted my spirits and inspired me to be just as authentic, just as kind and touching to the world at large.

Oscar Wilde once said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” In other words, it is the little things that get noticed, make a difference, and matter the most.

It’s been a few weeks since I left my little love bug, but the lesson he taught me that day I’ll hold in my heart forever. We’re often told how we need to “live in the moment,” and when a moment becomes inculcated into your soul, it becomes a part of who you want to be forever. Never again will I take a child’s hug, kiss, or even a pinky embrace for granted, for they are gifts bestowed without condition, expectation, or demands. They come from a place of love. Thank God we have children to teach us the way.