Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Finding Balance

Burping Luke
There are ways of knowing beyond the logical and empirical. We can know things in our hearts with certainty. Most of you probably understand this already, but I’m just getting used to it, having overused my brain and underused my heart for most of my sixty-two years. I’m striving for more balance during my final years on this side of the turf and my grandchildren are helping me in that effort.

Young children operate mostly on a feeling level and I’ve been spending lots of time with four of them - all under four years old. They require close supervision until their judgement develops and this will come about largely by making mistakes. My job as their grandfather is to let them do so, but not hurt themselves too much while they’re at it - then encourage them to think about their experience. I help them think and they help me feel as I watch them become completely absorbed in their play with each other. We also dance a lot.
Claire catching snowflakes

My grandchildren are out of balance too, but they’re supposed to be at their age. Much of their play is fantasy and quite magical. I’d mostly forgotten that realm and it’s nice to be reminded of how it feels as they involve me in their world of make-believe. It’s a balm for the soul. They pretend to shop for groceries and pretend to cook dinner. They help me when I cook for real too. It takes longer, but I like it better. They can’t chop vegetables yet, but they can put them into the saucepan after I do. Note to self: buy more string beans so they can snap them.
Luke and Henry

The twins will be a month old this Friday and they’re all feelings. They nurse and sleep mostly, but lately they’re capable of sustained eye contact. Henry, the younger by 32 minutes, smiled last week while we were looking intensely into each other’s eyes. It wasn’t a gas pain either; it was a genuine smile. It’s going to be interesting to observe their development while we’re living under the same roof, especially from a nature/nurture perspective if the obstetrician who delivered them is correct and they are identical twins - but there I go again being analytical. They look similar but are not difficult to tell apart. Luke has a narrower face and thicker hair than Henry. The obstetrician said they shared one placenta and are therefore identical, but Annie said two placentas can fuse sometimes and maybe that happened in this case. Time will reveal the truth.
Introvert Claire at her third birthday

The girls are verbal and quite different from one another. Claire, the three-year-old, is a thoughtful introvert, not unlike this writer. Her two-year-old sister, Lila, is outgoing and more playful - and determined to do whatever her older sister does. They quarrel over dolls and other toys and I sometimes function as referee, even pulling them apart physically occastionally. There’s a lot of dancing, picking up toys, wiping bums and emptying the potty chair, reading “Little Golden Books” and Berenstain Bears,” watching “Dora the Explorer” and “Winnie The Pooh,” coloring, going for walks and to play-group, and doing crafts. I even learned to brush hair and make pony tails that stay put for hours in their very fine hair.
Claire and Lila out with the dollies

With the boys, it’s wiping their smaller bums, burping them, keeping them awake to establish a sleeping schedule, and assuring my daughter, Annie, that it will eventually get easier as she nurses the two of them simultaneously. Then, realizing there are good reasons we have children when we’re young, I have little trouble falling asleep at the end of the day.
On the potty chair

Three days and two nights, paternal grandparents Roger and Chris come over and spell my wife and me and we go to our city house for a rest. They put in as much time as we do and thank God for them. Other extended family come when they can - a day here and a day there. Many of Annie’s friends have been sending suppers for all of us and I’m tasting some very creative cooking.

When the time comes for all of them to move back into their own home I’ll miss them - and I’ll be a better man, or more balanced at least. It’s happening already.


Geoff Diehl said...

What a wonderful post, Tom - Thanks for sharing!

Texas Transplant said...

Sometimes it is good to get down to basic family life and leave all the world turmoil to those people who have caused it and therefore should clean it up - rather like children...I think grandpa is mellowing....

Ryan Mahan said...

Tom, I admit, over the last decade I have found your columns angry. This perception at times forced me to pass-over your writing. I appreciate both what you've written here and the time you are spending with your grandchildren.

I know one of your daughters superficially (your Grandson played for a Lovell baseball team I coached) and kids and baseball will forever nourish me. Glad you feel the same.

There are lots of things I strive daily to get "right" and falling short, I always return to time with my kids.

Best -- Ryan Mahan

Greg Benton said...

Tom, your reflection on the grandchildren and your being a Grandad is simply wonderful. You are so obviously blessed and that's great a thing indeed.

As I write, I think of my own beloved grandad. From Plymouth, Devon, he was an ironfitter for the Royal Navy and then he played semi-professional football for Torquay United. At the age of 24, he went to France to fight the Germans in the First World War. He was in the trenches three years and twice wounded. Whilst he was in the military hospital in Bexhill-on-sea, he met my dear grandmother and when the war was over they were married and started a family that eventually begat me!
I treasure the little time that I had with Grandad in the fifties...but...he would tell us stories that I will never forget and he loved to spark our imagination. I saw his war wounds and even touched them...but then he also juggled oranges and managed to produce coins of the realm from his mouth!
Most significantly, Grandad Ernie Leonard taught me how to oil paint. He saw that I had a little bit of talent and so took me under his wing. Painting was his avocation through the depression and afterward. I'll never forget those moments.
He was a great Devonian, athlete, soldier and painter but to me his greatest role was simply as 'Grandad'. That is something that I feel coming through your wonderful reflection, only as a Grandfather with your little grandkids.
I am sorry that some people here think that you cannot be a loving Grandad and a warrior too. Indeed, from what I know of you and your history, most of what you write and the causes that you so deeply embrace are, in fact, for the sake of your children and grandchildren and the country you love.
As for getting 'angry', well, there is, without doubt, a lot to be angry about. Even our Lord went beserk in the holy temple before all the 'elites' of the time.
There is no need to separate your convictions from being such a softie Grandpa! There is a time for everything under heaven.
On this holy Thursday evening, I pray God's grace on you and your beautiful family...and I'm glad that you can tag team duty can be exhausting!

Anonymous said...

8269Stop and smell the diapers. They are this special only for a heartbeat.