10th: Shift not yourself in the sight of others nor gnaw your nails.
"YOU NEED ONE OF THESE"
3 September 2004
"You need one of these," was the title of an e-mail I received from a friend yesterday.
"One of these" was a grandchild.
My friend has waited many years for one of her daughters to give birth to a grandchild. The child is now pushing 2 and shed had a good day with him and was glowing, in that way that new grandmothers glow. "You really need to have a grandchild," she cooed.
Ive never really understood why it is that parents feel the need (or the right) to push their children into becoming parents. I consider the decision to bring another life into the world a very personal one and "because my mom wants to be a grandmother" doesnt come high on my list of perfect reasons why one should create a new life.
When I was raising kids, I envisioned myself, at this age, surrounded by grandchildren, being the doting grandmother my mother was. I had 5 kids. How could I lose? (As they say in A.A.--"if you want to make God laugh, just tell her what your plans for tomorrow are!")
Well, that hasnt happened and when people ask me when my kids are going to "make me a grandmother," it makes me a little angry. Its not my decision. The nice thing about being a grandparent, Ive always imagined, is that you get the best of the kids. The thing you didnt get when you were raising their parents.
You can hold them when theyre sweet, and give them back when theyre not.
You can spoil them when you feel like it, and then give them back and let their parents deal with the consequences.
You can cuddle them when they're clean, and give them back when they fill their diapers.
You can embarrass your children by telling their kids about the things that their parents did when they were the same age--and then give them back.
You dont live with them from day to day. You dont do 2 a.m. feedings or colic or diaper rash or tempter tantrums or stomach flu or any of those other things that we all deal with as parents.
As parents, you do it because its part of the job and you love these kids madly and have promised to take care of them. The payoff is you get to read them stories, get sticky kisses, play Chutes and Ladders, and build sand castles. You get to see their first step, hear their first word, and help them find their belly button, their nose, their ears.
But thats a contract you enter into with your spouse or your partner, or the co-parent. You decide together if you want to have children; then you take those children for better or for worse, until death do you part. (And you hope that the "death" in question is your own, not theirs...sigh)
You dont do it because Mom thinks its time to be a grandmother.
Ned and Marta have made the decision not to have children, and I respect that. For Ned, a big part of the reason was his feeling about overpopulation and the danger it causes the planet. I was thinking about that as I drove home from the dog park today, past the high school which has just built a new big parking lot, which is filled with cars, as are the streets and side streets--and the parking lot on the other side of the school. It used to be that everybody lived close enough to the school that they all rode bikes. Now Davis has expanded out so far kids need a car to get to school (since we dont have bussing here).
The open space all around us is being filled up with high priced housing developments.
The open space I once enjoyed between here and San Francisco now seems like one housing development after another.
Up toward the foothills, in an area where there was once desert land, Del Webb is building a virtual city, with lots of golf courses, fountains and greenery. I look at it and wonder where the water is going to come from when all the land is filled. Where is the food going to come from when we've covered over all of the fields that once made up the produce basket of California?
So I sympathize with Ned and Marta's feeling about overpopulation and I respect their decision not to bring another child into the world.
Jeri may or may not choose to have children, but as the biological clock is ticking pretty loud, there is a better than average chance that she will follow in her aunt's footsteps and not have children.
Tom and Laurel may or may not decide to have children. The ink is hardly dry on their marriage certificate, and though there are some who are already asking me about whether they are going to make grandparents of us, it's a question I don't ask. If they do, I will love our grandchild(ren) to pieces. If they don't, that's their decision and I respect them for it. (And if it turns out that for some reason they are physically unable to have children, I won't embarrass them by asking that painful question: "So when are you going to have children?")
Sure, I'd love to be out planning activites with our grandkids, but I don't need that identity to complete my life. I don't "need one of those." I mostly don't need to be pressuring any of my children into doing something that involves a lifetime commitment for them so I can spend an afternoon now and then playing with a grandchild.
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