“…this curious & pathetic fact of life: that when parents are old & their children grown up, the grown-up children are not the persons they formerly were; that their former selves have wandered away, never to return again, save in dream-glimpses of their young forms that tarry a moment & gladden the eye, then vanish & break the heart.”–Mark Twain
As a grandparent, this quote has become more and more poignant as the years speed by. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to “relive” through my grandchildren’s lives those moments that perhaps I was too harried or ignorant to recognize and enjoy as a parent. Parents are often caught up in the race to the next milestone: that first step—check; those first words—check; the first day of pre-school—check. We always have our eyes on the future and before we know it—it’s here. But in the meantime, that child we were in such a hurry to move along to the next level is “gone”—only to be seen and remembered in photos, and nowadays, captured in videos. It’s not the same.
Sometimes I laugh as I find myself peering at my grown children and wondering “Who are you?” and “What have you done with the kid I used to know?” Both of my children have turned out to be successful individuals in life and I’m extremely proud of them, but there is a sense of loss which overtakes me at times for the goofy kids I knew when they were little.
This is where being a grandparent is a bittersweet experience. From the vantage point of going through parenthood and emerging on the other side somewhat unscathed, I can appreciate what is and what isn’t important in raising kids. Don’t sweat the small stuff, in other words.
But I also acknowledge the fact that these happy times with them will vanish before too long. Before much more time passes they will have friends of their own they would rather be with and other interests besides the ones that please them now. Going to McDonald’s for dinner on Saturday nights with Memaw and Pappy will pale in comparison to going to the movies with friends. That’s inevitable.
So I try to enjoy every moment with them, even as I watch them grow taller and more mature as each day passes. And I will be doubly blessed if, someday, I’m lucky enough to see their children, my great-grandchildren, and be able to sweetly recall their parents’ childhood selves, if only in dream-glimpses.