Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Know from whence you came

We just got back from a weekend in Kansas City. This last weekend was Granny Becky’s 60th birthday and also Sister Sarah’s baby shower at the church. It was a good weekend, but I must admit, it was a weird sleep weekend.
See, in January, as we were coming back from KC, the last hour and a half of the trip Baby Girl decided that she had had enough of the car and commenced alternating between crying, whimpering, and screaming as a sign of protest. I since decided that I just couldn’t cope with this again, and that it was much smarter to set off as Baby Girl was getting ready to sleep for the night. We’d put her in pajamas, read her a story and then, instead of placing her in bed, we’d strap her into her car seat and head south down I-55.
We started out at a few minutes past seven, and all was going well as she drifted off about 20 past. But we stopped for gas at about 11:30 and those beautiful baby blues popped open with that irrepressible grin. It seems she had decided that she was ready to go. Touché.
The biggest problem with this, of course, was that a) she wanted to play at 12 o'clock at night and b) we were still four hours away from Kansas City.
The fault in the plan, I think, came from talking up the weekend’s activities. We kept telling her that when she woke up on Friday (i.e. the next morning) we’d be at Granny’s and Grandpa’s. I think she honestly kept expecting Granny to pop her head around the front seat.
When we got in at 2:30, she was very excited to see we were there and joyfully tumbled into the darkened living room. She was even more excited when she discovered the toys Granny had taken out just for her visit, including the little Elmo’s World playset that when you push the buttons plays Elmo’s voice really, really loudly.
Granny got up after a minute; how could you not when she was so obviously being paged from the front room?
This laid the scene for bizarre sleep patterns all weekend, but never a terribly temperamental Baby Girl. There was never any time to dwell on being upset when there were just so many stimulating and wonderful people around itching to play with her.

As I said, it was the weekend of Sarah’s shower, and so I was thinking a lot about new babies. As I watched all of our parents play with Baby Girl, it occurred to me why being a grandparent is such an important stage in the relationship with one’s own children. Watching these four people who raised Jason and I be caregivers for Baby Girl, I got a glimpse of who they were when we began.
There is a certain frenetic boldness with a newborn: You want to do it all right, you want to do it all well, and you really, really want to do it. There is a joy which permeates and infuses what you do because you’re getting to be a new you with this little life, this little human being God has sent you. But at some point after the kids are out of diapers, and you’re doing the long goal work of making a productive member of society, you develop and become a different parent. The spontaneous nature of joy and play just ebbs and the relationship changes: children grow up, parents evolve, and there doesn’t seem to be a proper place in your world for a good game of peek-a-boo anymore.
Jason and I have each been on this earth for over 30 years, and in this time the nature of our relationships with our parents has changed, frequently. But it has been my child who has allowed me to see how my parents began as parents. I think it is all too easy to forget that your parents got into this whole business producing you because they find joy in life, because they wanted to play and laugh, because they find wonder in the Creation and wanted to share this with each other . . . you know, all of the reasons why you got into this whole gig, too.

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