by Ken Root
When you have a child I believe you are blessed by God. When your child has a child, you are doubly blessed. One is that the child you raised has entered society and hopefully accepted responsibility to carry on and the other is that their child is the most beautiful little creature you have ever seen. Not only are they precious poop machines, you don’t have to clean it up!
Last weekend, I was at my daughter’s home and enjoying three days with twin nine year olds, Jack and Layla, along with their four- year-old brother, Colin. The memories we have of these short lives are almost overwhelming. The twins were a very troubled pregnancy and my daughter was in the hospital for the final third of their short term. Born as four and a half pound preemies, I looked at their froglike legs and prayed they would survive. They did and grew quickly under both their mother and father’s care. As parents, daughter and son in law changed from carefree yuppies to double barreled feeders and diaper changers overnight. “Your own baby’s poop doesn’t smell that bad,” observed my daughter as she sniffed diapers so see if they were soiled. It was the first time I had ever been pleasantly disgusted.
The virtues of grand parenting have been extolled by every person blessed with the new generation but it is wonderful to coo and make over a newborn without having to prop your eyelids open or worry about how you are going to pay for their food, clothing and education. Not only that, when they start to fuss or cry, you just hand them back to one of the parents and continue the conversation with another person in the room.
In further reflection, however, a parent worries a lot about their children and grandchildren. We want them to have a better life than ours but we don’t want them to get carried away. Young people tend to move away from their church and they often take on debt in the “have it now, pay for it tomorrow” mentality. They add children into their household in a random fashion and some are better parents that others. Jobs, that were once secure, seem to evaporate and even the most determined and stable worker may go through several careers before they are forty.
There is always the challenge for a son in law to measure up to the expectations of his wife’s parents. My father in law expressed that I was far less than he had in mind for his daughter. “Damn Son-In- Law” seemed to be one word in his extensive vocabulary. But when we had our first child, I noticed a change in him. Either he reconsidered my genetic contribution to the marriage or he related to who I became when the baby was born and had some empathy for me.
When we bought our first home and paid $36,000 for it, he shook his head and said: “How the hell are you going to pay for that and raise a child?” When my son in law bought their first home and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for it, I was ready to say the same. Instead, I divided my income, at age twenty-five, into the price of the house and then did the same with my son in law’s salary compared to the house he bought. The ratio was almost identical.
As a grandparent, I know that times have changed and not always for the better. It was acceptable to live poor and proud in my rural Oklahoma town. Today, I don’t know if that’s true. It was a struggle to get a college education in the 1960’s but today it is unbelievably expensive to accomplish the same feat. If I had to call out the government on any single area in which this country has failed, that would be it. I am not for free college tuition but I do think the only hope for higher education is to motive high school students to study and attempt to get scholarships while their parents and grandparents sock as much money into savings as possible.
On Sunday evening, following a full afternoon of baseball games, I was mellow and siting on the deck observing nature while chatting with my daughter and son in law. All at once there was screaming and crying from the four-year-old that scared us all out of our chairs. He pulled the patio door open and screamed: “Jack slapped me and took the iPad away!” Daughter took the lead in getting to the core of the problem and passed out either threats or discipline as her husband backed her up. I slid back into my chair remembering the same issues years ago and thanking the Lord that I did not have to go through them again. I do know some grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. It seems cruel to deny them the pleasure of spoiling these kids but they step up and do what they can to extend their linage even though the chain broke somewhere in the process.
On one evening of the visit, I was babysitter as mom and dad saw an opportunity to get away together. The twins are old enough to know how to behave and they were tired enough from the day’s activities that we just watched really stupid shows on Nickelodeon and the four-year-old played with the iPad. When it came time for bed, he went first and showed me his routine. He kissed his brother and sister and picked out books for me to read. We then turned on his sound machine and made sure the night light was just right. I scrunched the blanket around him in my favorite “tuck-tuck” fashion and he smiled. As I left the room, he said: “I want the door closed and open.” I adjusted it until he seemed to be satisfied. Jack and Layla got another hour of television time and I asked if they needed to be tucked in. “Nope, we got it,” was Jack’s reply as he headed upstairs. Layla kindly kissed me and found her way as well.
Later on, after I had turned the television to more suitable viewing, I went up to look in all three rooms. Innocence radiated from each one as their minds seemed to be fully at peace and their bodies were relaxed as if God was holding them. I hope he will do so for their entire lives.