This is the second in a series of articles looking at the issues faced by grandparents, especially those who find themselves in a position of having to become parents to their grandchildren. You can read the introduction, here.
The birth of a child is probably one of the most joyful events that most families experience. It is so keenly anticipated for such a long time that most expectant mothers get to the point where they hate to hear that ominous question, “So how long do you have left?”
Why do we look forward to the birth of any child, let alone the first? Is it not because of what it represents – a new beginning? Whether this is the family’s first child or its fifth, the family will be forever changed by the birth. The child represents the family’s future. So many hopes and aspirations are bound up in that little bundle of joy.
Conceived at a time when the parents were at their closest, physically, emotionally, even mentally, they rightly treasure the newly-born child. All those months, maybe even years of planning have finally culminated in a hopeful future.
Raising Your Own Children
If you have had the experience, think back to the time when you first found out that you were expecting. How did you feel? Mothers report feeling little flutters in their abdomens. Then again, so do some fathers! If you have yet to enjoy this experience, try to anticipate how you might feel.
For some mothers, the feeling of that tiny collection of cells swaying about inside the womb was a reminder that they were now responsible for a life other than their own. In fact, that very thought may well have caused the fluttering in their partner’s stomach, too! It truly is a heavy responsibility. Just think: You are embarking on a twenty-year project with a view to producing a new, valued member of society who will carry on the great family tradition. At least, that’s the plan.
As we all know, the best-laid plans often come unstuck. Life has a strange way of confusing the issues for us. All that time, attention, and money that you were prepared to shower on your little bundle of joy may suddenly have to be shared between two, three, or more, as further children come along.
A Twenty-Year Project
As you embarked on your twenty-year project, what thoughts went through your mind? Did you think about the amount of alcohol you were consuming? Did you limit your intake, or even cut it out altogether for that critical nine months, or more? Did you decide to give up tobacco products, or even stronger substances? Did you watch your diet and make sure that you ate the “right” foods and drank the “right” drinks? Did you make sure that you ate and drank in the “right” quantities, and at the “right” times? What about exercise? And rest? Did you ensure that you kept your blood pressure in the right band?
Why? Wasn’t it because you wanted to give your child the very best start in life? Didn’t you want to ensure that your baby was as healthy as possible when it exited from its amniotic swimming pool?
Even when further children came along, did you not do your best to ensure that, although you now had toddlers to chase after, you still had the right amount of sleep and the right amounts of the right food and drink? Or did things start to slip? And do you reproach yourself for that? Of course not. By then you had enough experience to know that the “right” things are actually recommendations, and that there is a fair amount of tolerance in the range of diets and activities that will keep you fit and healthy, and give your child a healthy start.
Still, the years rolled by. Suddenly, as you turned thirty, you realized that your energy levels were dropping. As you turned forty, and you still had teenagers to look after, you learned that this project was not going to be so easy, after all. Yet you kept going. After all, you are not one to let the next generation down.
Raising Responsible Adults
The aim of all this work, of course, was to raise responsible adults who would carry on the fine family tradition. Your children were going to be everything that you dreamed they would be. So you made sure that, most of the time, they had a fairly healthy diet; that they had a healthy amount of sleep and exercise; and that they studied the right subjects and did their homework on time.
You recognize, of course, that you were not, and you are not, a perfect parent. No arguments, please. You were not and you are not the perfect parent. Neither was I, neither am I. We all mistakes. Yet that does not mean that we failed as parents. We did our best in the circumstances and with the information, resources, and materials that we had.
Just consider this: Accidents and illnesses aside, did your children make it to the point where they were able to look after themselves? Did they leave home with the ability to cook some semblance of a reasonably healthy meal? On the assumption that they survived the first five weeks living on their own, I think it is safe to say that, yes, you managed to raise fairly responsible children. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Living on fast food may not constitute being fairly responsible, but I think you get the idea of what I mean. And maybe they still bring the laundry home, once a month, for you to process it so that they can avoid purchasing further supplies of socks and underwear. Still, they have survived up till now.
In the next article we will look at the unique experiences involved in raising children.