Sunday, January 31, 2010


I am preoccupied by my granddaughter. Its not interfering with anything but she seems to be a constant presence in my mind. She has brought me back to that time in my life when we had our children and I was so fascinated by how they grew and changed.

When my oldest son arrived it was overwhelming - work, helping Helene (my wife), taking care of him, studying, being sleep-deprived. But one of my professors, who was a wise and perceptive woman, told me that I wasn't paying enough attention. She wasn't blaming me but she said that almost anyone that was in my situation behaved the same way. Except, she said, that you only get to experience this once with each child and who knows if there will be more children.

She told me that I needed to focus, pay attention, watch and think. The best advice she gave me was to try to look at my child with 'new eyes' every time I saw him.

She never used the word but what she was really trying to tell me was to be 'mindful' (Continuous, clear awareness of the present moment) of what was happening to me and to my son.

It was the best advice I ever received concerning my kids.

I paid attention and what I saw boggled my mind. Each time he went for a nap he woke up different/changed. Each time I saw him again for the first time after being at school, or studying, or just being away was like I was seeing him for the first time.

I saw him change. I saw him develop. I saw him move through the tiny, little and sometimes huge changes that happen to babies.

I was able to do this with all my children.

I fell more deeply in love with them because of how I saw them. I recognized, appreciated and tried to understand change, growth, development. And each of them did all of these things in their own unique ways. I saw their individuality in the way they developed and how their personality took shape.

They just weren't the 'baby' they were living, dynamic, pleasure machines.

And so I think about my granddaughter and wonder about my parents and in-laws.

My mother used to remind us that when her parents left the 'old country' around 1921 her father never saw his parents again. He never heard their voices again. And they never saw his children - their grandchildren. My mother's mother was more fortunate - her mother was with them in Canada.

Well when I moved away from Winnipeg I did see my parents again and I did hear their voices. An aside: My mother now almost instantly recognizes my voice on the phone but has a hard time recognizing me in person!

My parents and in-laws saw and spoke to their grandchildren regularly but we lived far away and they didn't get that day-by-day experience.

Did they appreciate the changes when they saw the kids? Could they relate to their grandchildren directly, personally? It was a different generation - a generation that felt that kids were kids and weren't that interested in developing personal relationships - they loved their grandchildren but it was a more abstract thing than a day to day personal relationship.

And so I think about my granddaughter.

I imagine the way she moves, cries, eats, sleeps and I imagine the changes she must be going through everyday.

My imagination is fed by regular updates - we have inexpensive long distance phone lines, we have Skype and webcams, we have the time and the money to go and see her regularly.

Its not likely that very many of my grandchildren will live just down the street. But this is a small world and we are fortunate in having wonderful relationships with all of our children.

The changes will happen - we won't be there to see every single one - but that's what parents are for - we're there to enjoy and support and see the big chunks.

What a wonderful time

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