WE DECIDE FOR WHATEVER REASON that we wish to aid in the propagation of the species. Then with ease or following great trials and tribulations we are with child. That happy day arrives – probably at 2:30 AM – and we become parents. And on that day when the first of our brood makes her debut our lives are changed. Eventually we don’t remember the nature and form of our existence BC (before children). We adapt, not easily. The shock wears off. It becomes clear to us there is no return policy.
Now our lives are filled. We do what we have to do. We celebrate each of the milestones. The happy photo at college graduation. Our child beaming, confident and strong. The parents’ smile telegraphing a hint of relief; no small amount of pride. Our visage showing greying brow, sagging jowl; our bellies a growing paunch. We pose knowing not what happens next. No pink slip arrives regretting to inform us that our services no longer are required.
We want nothing in return, really. I understand this now. We expect nothing. Maybe – probably – we deserve nothing. We have heard the call of our species and answered. We do what we can to prepare them for their life independent of us. Maybe we prepare them well. Maybe we don’t. But we do hope. The best and the worst of us do that each in our way. We wish for them a future in which they live their lives in relative happiness.
Then it is up to them.
We remain on call. Ready to help, if asked. Ready to do almost anything necessary. Often we stand aside while the people we will always call our children struggle with what comes their way; struggle with what they bring their way. If we are wise, we choose our words carefully. If we are not, we choose badly. Either way the consequences do not belong to us.
Our children teach us what it is like for our parents to raise us. As I reflect on my own young adulthood, I realize that a good portion of the time my father was right. Now, someday, maybe, it will be their turn. Then we, the grandparents, will watch removed still further; raising our hopes for another generation; wishing for them the same as their parents.