Just in case you missed me last week, I was not off traveling the world as I have done many times before, sometimes for weeks at a time. I was not loafing in bed reading novels and eating bonbons. I was babysitting!
My one and only grand baby is a 13-month-old boy and the focus of our family’s attention. In a what seems the blink of an eye, he has gone from an unpredictable and absolutely dependent infant to a little boy ready to roll.
He rarely misses a meal and thoroughly enjoys tossing tidbits from the high chair to his “brother,” the family Labrador retriever, always at the ready to receive flying food of any sort. Words are beginning to flow, prominently among them a version of “basketball.” That word applies to any round object, including oranges which roll easily along the kitchen counter and make a satisfying smack when hurled at the floor.
Strolling is a favorite activity, although pushing a version of baby shopping cart is becoming more popular as actual walking looms.
Simply put, he is a toddler with the world unfolding before him.
My friends who became grandparents long before I did are right. Being a grandmother is in many ways easier than being a mother. It has all the pleasure, wonder and love of parenting without the daily frustrations, exasperations, physical demands, financial burdens, and all the other realities of having children. I had worried that I would not remember how to handle young children, but it comes back, just like riding a bicycle. I saw with my own children how cherished and meaningful an involved grandparent can be, and I aspire to have such a relationship.
All of which brings to mind what I want this precious boy to learn and embody as he grows up.
I want him to understand from an early age that good health — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, is important and worth working to establish and maintain.
This means nourishing food, regular physical activity though not necessarily athletics. Rest and quiet time for personal reflection should be part of regular routine. It is true that nothing else much matters if we don’t have good health.
I want him to value education and to work for it. Education determines not only our careers and our lifetime earnings, but it also enriches the quality of our lives as we enjoy the knowledge we have and continue to seek more. We understand and enjoy the world around us so much more when we know what we are seeing. I want him to understand that learning never stops only when breathing does.
I want him to know he will have two kinds of families — the people to whom he is related and the people he chooses as friends. Both are precious and must be nurtured at all stages of life. These are the people who will laugh with him, cry with him, and share life’s offerings.
At the same time, he needs to learn to love and trust himself, to enjoy his own company, and to understand that no one in his circle of family and friends will be with him forever. The only person who will take every step with him is himself.
I remember my parents, of course, as well as my grandparents and some of their siblings and still feel their impacts. I have come to understand that children have an innate need for relationships with people in the generation older than their parents. I look forward to that with this little boy for as long as we are flowing down the river of life together.