As I write this, in a nearby room, sleeps about 22 pounds of energy, laughter and joy embodied in our thirteen month old granddaughter. This is our east coast girl and we are enjoying the quiet, after a few hours of entertaining and ministering to the needs of a little one. Hanging out with someone who does not yet use words means there are moments when it is like a game of charades, trying to figure out what has changed her mood, what she is staring at and whether she is tired, hungry or bored with my singing. I know for a fact that my rehearsal for grandparenting was caring for my own children, and sometimes I forgot my lines and my patience was in short supply.
It amazes me that as I grow older my need to be doing “it” right (whatever “it” might be) diminishes exponentially. When someone so little looks up and grins a toothy grin that makes you know you are doing it the way they need or want, it becomes the standard of measure. It doesn’t matter whether you are acting like a fool, or that you are willing to copy any sounds that they utter or crawl around on the floor, it all meets with approval. It doesn’t matter that everything else that used to be important, is put on hold because my FHB and I finally get it….time has accelerated, our kids are adults and these little folks (both our east and west coast girls) are willing and available for loving and experiencing life in this moment with us. Children have no sense of time as that is a concept that it thrust upon them. So every moment is freestanding. The relationship is the connection between moments.
The caretaking is somewhat more daunting, and I am not that sure whether it is because I am older or whether I am more worried about messing up “someone else’s” child. Having the trust of my child to watch his child is a tall order. What I did when I parented many moons ago is less relevant to being consistent in caring the way I am asked to do. It is learning respect for someone else’s system and honoring them for being excellent caretakers, which in the circle of life might just be a reflection of how they were raised. It is actually such an eye opening experience to know that your child is truly a person who can manage to work, and caretake and be a partner and it all works well. They already know more about letting certain things go and emphasizing the critical tasks of being available and present for their children than I knew. It is kind of impressive. There is also the sense that they are truly grateful for our help and participation in their daughter’s life and that it is not taken for granted and assumed. All of a sudden the good manners and acknowledgement that seemed to pass me by during their adolescence, comes back a hundred fold. I like these people. They are kind to us and kind to others.
I had a hard time sitting still when I had a baby. I thought that everything was equal in terms of cleaning, laundry, and childcare. I did little caretaking of myself and questioned how I was doing as a parent. I was a hard critic and concerned that I was juggling all I needed to, the job, the house, and the children and not doing it terribly well. I like the current babysitting gig and know that somehow it has all synthesized itself into a pretty lovely system of checks and balances. I guess the investment of time plus or minus the lack of or increase in life experience, all adds up to a lot of return and drooling kisses. And you can take that to the bank.