You took me to a junk yard that sold used bikes so we could buy my first two-wheeler. I knew that the bike was a little beat up, but I still loved it. What I didn't know were your thoughts and feelings about getting the bike. Did you feel guilty that I didn't have a bike and that prompted you to go get one? Did you have to work extra hours to afford it? Did you have to come up with rules for riding the new bike in the neighborhood? Did I pester you to frustration asking you to help me learn to ride it over and over? Did you hurt your back holding onto the back of my seat and running alongside, cursing your decision to buy the bike? Did you fight to hold back the words "you ungrateful child" each time that I cried when you told me to come inside or to put the bike away?
When I broke the rules and left the yard, did you struggle with what punishment to hand out? Since I was normally the compliant child, did you consider letting it slide or did you come down hard on me as a warning for future behavior? Did you feel sorry for me and wish that you weren't the parent so you didn't have to be consistent with discipline? When I cried in remorse, did you secretly cry with me?
Lucky charms for breakfast and cold hotdogs for lunch were fine by me, but did you struggle with pre-planning meals or work long hours so you were too tired to cook? Did you stick to my bedtime or let me stay up too late just because you wanted to keep snuggling on the couch? You taught me to swim at an early age, but I couldn't write my own name for the longest time. Did you compare me to other children's milestones and feel proud or embarrassed, or were you confident in my progression despite the "norms?"
I didn't witness your struggle of being a parent. I'm sure it was there, but through my childish eyes, you always did the right thing. You always knew what to do. I never saw you cry in frustration or fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day. What did you try to remember to say to me every night when I went to bed, but forgot to say because you were at the end of your rope? How did you wake me in the morning? Was it calm and loving or rushed and stressed? Did you get enough sleep at night? Did you long for invitations to sleepovers so you could have an evening to yourself? Were you worried about my shyness, proud of the way I brushed my hair, or frustrated with the messiness of my room? How did you mediate our fights over who's turn it was to sit in the big chair and hold the channel-changer for the TV? I just don't know these details. I wish I did. My childhood felt perfect, safe, and loving. How did it feel to you, my parents? The way I parent my children doesn't always feel perfect, safe, or loving from my adult perspective. Will it to my children? Will the struggle be hidden from their memories, like it was from mine?
Despite all of the things that I wish I could remember, there are some parenting moments that I feel that I am still living as I watch you with my children...your grandchildren. I see how your patience outlasts my own when Silas talks about every detail of his dinosaur dream last night. I notice the openness you have for considering the wants and whims of the kids. Morgan won't drink her breakfast smoothie unless you move her arm up and down to 'pump' the shake into her body. Silas wants to wrestle...again. You are always there with a hug, a smile, and special surprises to make them feel loved. You pray for them without them knowing it. You ask to be a part of theirs lives and find little ways to connect with them. By loving them, you are loving me. By grandparenting them, you are still parenting me. But this time I will be able to remember the details. As an adult, it isn't the feeling of perfection, safety, or love that I treasure most from you. Instead, it is witnessing the struggle, through both failure and success, that I value most. At this stage in life, the parenting is indirect, but still relevant and powerful in equipping the next generation. Thank you for continuing to parent me by grandparenting my children.
To all the parents, young, old, grand, step, foster, and spiritual - share your struggles and successes, uncertainty and courage with the next generation. Leave a legacy of openness, growth, and transparency to those of us who will seek solace in your journey as we try to wanderwell through ours. ~ Stevyn