I watch her, the next to the youngest, walking on her knees and dragging the toes of her shoes over the sidewalk. At first I think she’s hurt, maybe she’s fallen and she can’t get up (no, that’s a commercial for old people). But as I watch, she keeps moving forward, smiling, ignoring her mama’s instructions to get up and walk. Oh, yes…She can walk. She just doesn’t want to at this exact moment.
Sensing that she may have a “moment” with her mom if she doesn’t comply, I go to her and reach down my hand. She reaches up and clasps it, grinning. If I think she’s going to walk, I’d better reconsider that. The second she’s up, she drops all her weight on my arm, swinging forward to let her feet touch the ground momentarily, only to jump forward again in a wide arc and touch down a couple of feet ahead of where her shoes last made contact with the pavement. This girl is not going to do things the way anyone expects. She’s exploring, testing the limits, and figuring out all the angles. She watches her older brothers like a hawk to be sure that they don’t do anything fun without her. She imitates and perpetrates and just primarily pushes the envelope.
I watch her and I’m amazed at the change in the short course of two years. She turns two tomorrow and already, she has much of the personality that she will have when she’s my age. Not a baby and not yet able to completely express herself verbally, still she lets you know what she wants. The word “No” figures in predominantly and even “Don’t wanna” frequently, but she’s not only negative. She loves to play with the “baby”, but won’t be limited to girly stuff, showing her skill in a pretend sword fight with little wooden slats (really the roof pieces from the Lincoln Logs set). She can’t stand to be away from her brothers, asking where each one of them is, even if she’s just turned away from them for a moment and they’re out of her sight. But she will not be bullied, shoving her way onto the piano bench between the two of them, even though they deny her pleas for help getting up. And so, she sits, happily pounding, with a brother on each side of her. It’s not Mozart, by a long shot, but the music is sweet. (This, of course, is quickly brought to a close by one brother choking the other to get the pounding stopped, but that’s a different tale.)
And being the old guy I am, I can’t help thinking back twenty-some years (we do that, you know) to when her mom was that age, learning, fussing, smiling (but not yet fighting with her brother). I’ve changed too. Back then I was a perfectionist, demanding instant obedience, determined that my child would not be that spoiled little girl who had her dad twisted around her little finger. I think I failed miserably at that aspiration, but I was a disciplinarian. Things are different now. Candy is available and I love to share, much to the dismay of their parents (after all, when they’re adequately hyped up, we send them home). I figure it’s my place as a grandfather to give them what they want, not to discipline them. By and large, I’m fairly content to let the tumult swell and generally like to have a “limited government” type of mindset. (There are exceptions, but the revelation of those, like the choking story, will wait for another day.)
If you ask me today, I’ll tell you that being a grandfather is the best, but as I consider it, when it was happening, being a father was fantastic. My main lament now, besides the sergeant-major mentality, is that I was in such a big hurry to get to the next stage. You know, walking, talking, potty-training, running, going to school, graduating, going to college, getting married, and before you know it, it’s past. Just a blink of the eyes and gone… Even now, we can’t slow it down, but we can be sure that we cherish the moments we’re allowed. The little girl swinging from Grandpa’s hands, the three of them pounding on the piano (I know a good piano-tuner), and all the other amazing moments…they’re all gifts from God.
We’ve had bad luck with our kids – they’ve all grown up. –Christopher Morley (American writer/poet)
Children are an endowment from the Lord…–Psalm 123:3