It’s a truism that the only thing more fun than your children is your grandchildren. As soon as friends and family knew that my wife and I were about to become grandparents, they recited some version of this to us.
But at least for me, as all family and my closest friend knew, that set the bar REALLY low. My children are wonderful but I am the living counterpoint to another joke. I truly cannot believe how much THEY, or least my two sons, learned in the couple of years following a generally unpleasant, extended teenage decade which lasted, I estimate, from when they turned 12 to when they turned 22. My wife really enjoyed the period before that, but I was consumed by work.
I probably – no, on reflection, almost certainly – had the wrong and self-fulfilling attitude about becoming a parent for the first time. At a couples Lamaze class, I went to, before the birth of my oldest son, the instructor asked us, one at a time, to describe our feelings about the impending arrival of a child. One after another, the prospective mothers and fathers glowed with heartfelt optimism and excitement. It came to my turn. This was the late 80’s; this was Long Island. Perhaps I just wanted attention. Perhaps I wanted to “help” the soon-to-be fathers in the group by voicing the less-than-politically-correct, doubts about how wonderful it was all going to be.
I had a British accent. If I’d learned nothing else at Graduate School in the States (and it IS possible I did learn nothing else), you can get away with a lot in America if you say it with a British accent. Even on Long Island, the closest point of the USA to Britain. I don’t remember exactly what I said. I don’t THINK it was dark, but I wasn’t wearing the rose-tinted glasses everyone else in the room must have been issued. I wasn’t worried or scared, particularly. It was just I LIKED our life just the way it was, newly-weds, uninterrupted…..ok, selfish…stuff. I was frankly ambivalent about any change. I began: I was sure “it,” the arrival of a child or children, parenthood would be “fine,” but …. There were a couple of audible gasps. And then silence. I thought I might even be the first Lamaze student to be expelled. And then collectively, the group seemed to relax – the accent won out. I was off the hook. He’s English, what can you expect!
Well, overall the first decade of each child was “fine.” I really don’t remember my son’s birth, or my next son’s. By the time my daughter arrived 6 years later, I was more engaged and enjoyed it more, but it is strange, on reflection, that I had no profound thoughts.
Which brings me to last week, when, for the first time I held my new granddaughter in my arms. Yes, she is lovely and seems so thoughtful, with long fingers and a very quizzical, intelligent look. I know, I’ve read that at one week old she’s just trying to focus. I know. I know. I know also that I was better prepared to be excited and joyful, engaged and moved. And it was fascinating to see my son and daughter-in-law in this new, parental role.
But beyond that, there was something just AMAZING about her. I’ve been very lucky in life to have wonderful friends and family and I miss them. But I’ve never before missed someone so much who I only met a few hours before. I ALREADY miss this tiny, one week old.
So I really only have one piece of advice for prospective grandparents nervous about what this new arrival may mean for their lives. If you happen to be invited to a Lamaze class for prospective grandparents. (Could that idea ever catch on?) And you’re invited to share your feelings … go with the flow.