This morning I babysat Walter and Ruby at their house while Ashley chaperoned a field trip with Parker’s third grade class. Ruby was still sleeping when I arrived. One-year-old Walt was sitting at the end of the granite kitchen island in his little clamp-on seat, eating bits of strawberries. I stood beside him and watched. What is it that makes us adult humans so compelled by little chubby fingers clamping onto objects? He lifted his hand with every fourth piece of strawberry and offered it to me. I thought it was beautiful, the way he satisfied himself, and then turned to me, wanting me to enjoy the same satisfaction. When he refused his Sippy cup of milk and scattered his Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal all over the floor, I decided he was ready to be done and lifted him out of his seat Ash told me that they had Walt-proofed the playroom, just off of the kitchen, so I scooted him out there to play. I watched him from the window that separates the family room and play room. I pulled out my computer to do some work and sat under the window. Within minutes Walt was in trouble, nothing to panic about, but enough to make me pause. I could tell by the raised pitch of his grunts, the sound emitting from his belly and up past the Binky planted between his lips. Walt was frustrated. He had waddled over to the soft baseball he had thrown into the corner, crawled under a chair to retrieve it, and found himself stuck between the wall and the chair. I watched and listened, waiting for the spirit to tell me when I should go rescue him, but aware of the value of letting him figure it out himself. Eventually he found his way out. Not less than five minutes later the same muffled moaning indicated that he was stuck again, this time in Ruby’s American Girl Doll car. Again I watched as he tried to liberate himself, the car refusing to let go of his leg. Just as I started moving toward the door to help him, he shook off that pink plastic SUV and went on playing.
It’s a marvelous and interesting thing to be a grandmother. Perspective changes things. I was a naïve young mother once upon a time, one prone to rescuing. Now I realize as I sit here watching this little boy, that the bump on his forehead from that unfortunate spill yesterday will soon be gone, not even a memory. And so will his unsteady toddling steps, and the rhythmic click-click-click of his tongue caressing his pacifier. If confidence is remembered success, then he will confidently figure out how to get himself out of frustrating circumstances by himself, not recalling at all that the ability to maneuver out of sticky situations began with his sister’s hot pink doll car.
I am amazed, in this society of over regulating, that people are not required to learn a bit about parenting before we have kids. We would never be permitted to drive a car without adequate training, and showing proof that we have learned what we were taught. And yet they hand us our babies at the hospital doors and send us out into the world completely unprepared. What are we thinking! And yet I marvel at the instinctive ability of the human spirit to figure things out. Thank goodness, because my poor children would be messes! Yet somehow they have turned into responsible, intelligent, functional, loving adults, with a beautiful portion of imperfection to keep them on their toes. It must be that eternal parenting that happened before they were mine, when their spirits were trained by pre-mortal angels and heavenly parents.
So here you go, Walt! It’s your turn on earth. Lucky you that your parents are pretty skilled at this parenting business. Lucky you that you have two parents who work together to raise you. Lucky too, that you have four grandparents who adore you, and a whole bushel full of other friends and relatives with whom you will be able to get into sticky situations. Fortunately for all of you, you are also getting skilled at figuring out how to get out of them. Whatever the future brings, remember your old Gummy is on the other side of the family room window cheering you on.