Some of our family are visiting us, it is a foggy, damp day and it is time we all went for a walk and ran off some energy. For four year old Clara this will mean riding her new peddle bike up and down our quiet side road and this will be a challenge for her. She rides her little wooden peddle-less bike just fine but is having a crisis of confidence on the bigger, more complex one, for all the fancy streamers her parents have spruced it up with.
At times like this, a gentle stroll down the road and back again, I feel restless. I want to do something more individual, active and adventurous. My wife and daughter Gwyn though, seem to be tuned into what is happening here; we are providing Clara with an opportunity to overcome her fear and we are giving little Violet some fresh air in the stroller. Intellectually I get it, but there are times I still struggle with my grandparent role of caregiver, supporter and playmate for the grandchildren. I can even feel shame for my difficulty in making a complete adjustment to this new role.
I do understand the importance of good grand-parenting, of helping to carry on through the generations healthy, well adjusted, caring children who in turn will pass that on to their own children. I worked as a child and parent counsellor with social services for a few years and know all too well how difficult it is to repair families that have broken down and like-as-not are themselves the inheritors of destructive family patterns from the past. For individuals, families and society as a whole, getting this child raising right and giving support where needed is vitally important. I give my head a shake and take a new look around me.
Clara peddles past, her face contorted in fear and a siren of screams trailing behind her. Her mom runs alongside giving encouragement and taking a handlebar only when absolutely needed. Silence, and then back out of the fog they come with Gwyn riding and Clara running alongside laughing and giving her mom encouragement. Whether Clara learns to ride today is really not as important as the lessons Gwyn has learned as a child and is so effortlessly putting to work with her own children. And we know that this knowledge will be so deeply engrained in her daughters that they too will pass it on.
Of course nothing is guaranteed in life; war, social disruption, illness, a bad choice of mate, can mess this up, but to live hopefully into the future is really the only realistic option. We forget how fragile human life really is and how fragile is our way of life. If we forget to maintain and renew and adjust ourselves and our society continually we do not simply stand still in some shining spotlight of comfort, we start slipping back into a very dark hole the very moment we stop moving forward.
I adjust my sights, focus on the close and present and take over pushing the stroller.