We work hard in hopes that our efforts “pay off” one day – well, ours just did. My daughter and her wonderful husband just called and told us that they’re expecting their first child, and that we’re going to be grandparents. Like many things in life, the perception of what we think this would be like is nowhere near as great as the real thing.
When we got the call, the “are you sitting down” was the tip off. Now I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting a call like this, but none the less it was like a pure shot of adrenaline. Old bones, like mine, don’t get many of these kinds of shots these days, and since this is our first grandchild, we were flooded with lots of emotions. Someone once told me that the payoff for being a parent is becoming a grandparent – now I can say “ain’t that the truth”. All those days and nights and years of doing the things that one does with their children (too many good and bad things to list here) dissolve into the euphoria of learning that you’re going to be a grandparent. It’s funny how the world advises how not to spoil a child, but it seems to be just the opposite when starting to learn how to feel about and treat a grandchild. It’s almost like throwing out all sense and caution, and then getting giddy when considering what the kid just has to have.
My wife immediately thought about making a blanket that the baby would use and take into adolescence; our daughter had one that became worn and tattered over the years - I think she might still have a small piece of the fabric from that cherished “blankie”. I immediately thought about what the baby would call me – Grandpa, Pop-Pop, Opa, Zaide – the choices are endless. And then our thoughts focused on all the loved ones now gone and how they would have reacted to this. Fortunately, the parents-to-be have two wonderful maternal grandmothers who are now filled with the joy and expectation of having a new great-grandchild. This life-goes-on thing is really exciting!
So, what does one do when the prospect of grandparenthood is really imminent: these days you go and check it out on the internet! And what do you find: Grandparents.com; National Grandparents Day; Grandparents Magazine; your state’s Department for the Aging; and even a Foundation for Grandparenting. And then there are the millions of references and images of grandparents and their extended families on the AARP site. There’s no end to the miles of smiles associated with this happy event.
But then, in the back of our minds, there’s the awareness of all that goes in to having and raising a child, the stages the kids (and their parents) go thru, the colds and viruses, the sleepless nights of missed curfews, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat of every event the kids participate in, the many anxieties and countless emotions that accompany everything the kids do. In the end, none of us parents would, in hindsight, change the fact that we had a kid, even if we could. All of the plusses far outweigh any of the minuses. And now that we’re going to be grandparents, there’s this belief that we’ll mostly be around for and the recipients of the good things. Because at the end of the day, we can always give the grandkids to their parents and go home, right?
But that’s too flippant an attitude. In this crazy world of ours, we all worry about bringing another soul into the world we read about in the news every day. Hatred, wars, poverty, inequality, distrust, double-dealing, unemployment, economic uncertainty – the list is endless. But you know what – our parents, and our grandparents, and all of their ancestors faced uncertain times too, but they still had kids. That’s because of this instinct to build a family, to care for someone, to give what you can to others, to continue the human race. That’s because there’s a trust and belief that tomorrow can and will be better, and that with a new bundle of responsibility we’ll work that much harder to do more, make more and be able to give them more than we had. That’s because this really is the spark that launches generations, and it’s the reason we’re on this earth. And that’s because it’s a moments like these that the depth and meaning of our existence becomes apparent and real, and that we again sense our place in this vast universe.
It’s all part of the payoff for all that we do in life, and all that life takes out of us, and all that we ever hope for. It’s all there – believe me, it all flashes quickly to show that it’s there – when they ask whether you’re sitting down. So we sat down and let the thrill of this announcement carry us into this next phase of our lives. And just like when we were kids and declared that we would do things differently if and when we became parents (and didn’t), now we’ll reflect back on all the things our grandparents did (and didn’t do) and try to do and be more. But in the end, it will all be about the same. It will all be filled with hope and love and more – all the things that were there when we were kids (and then parents) but couldn’t really see from those perspectives. And, just so you now, I hope the baby will call me ‘pop-pop’ just like my daughter called my father. That will really be the payoff.
My message this week is about accepting the responsibilities that come your way and making the most of what you do.
"Most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it's addressed to someone else.”
Ivern Ball was a Dadaist poet and writer famous for wise quotes. Dadaism’s purpose was to ridicule what its participants considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world. In addition to being anti-war, Dadaism was also anti-bourgeois and anarchist in nature.
What’s written on your wall? This writing-on-the-wall idea is often about some unspoken and unwritten undercurrent. People are always judging what they see and hear, and whether they formally communicate it or not, they form perceptions about who and what others are. And some of the things that people judge are whether someone has integrity, is responsible, and accepts responsibility for their actions. The best ways to show that you do have these things are to be open and transparent, to treat others the way you want to be treated, to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re expected to do it, to say what you mean and mean what you say and to accept and fulfill your responsibilities. So when you see the writing on the wall, assume it’s for you and address it appropriately. Things like this can help you be better, so pay attention. You’ll be glad you did.