Today the newest member of our family, Grace Lois Joan, first child of younger daughter and her husband, is two weeks old. Welcome to the world little girl.
I have written before about the birth of a new grandchild. They are all different and this one has made me very aware of something I have thought before and never tried to articulate. It is one of the great pleasures of life to see your children parenting their own children. I never realised this when I was younger and I haven't seen much written about it. The pleasures of being a grandparent are widely celebrated, and they are very great, but the pleasures of seeing your adult children caring for their children have rather taken me by surprise. I never expected them to be so great and so lasting.
When my children were young I both dreaded and longed for the days when they would be grown and responsible for themselves. I could not imagine them not needing me and not being at the centre of their lives and yet I could also see that at some point they would be gone, gone as in living elsewhere, having their own lives, however central they remained to my turning world. Ours are all adult now and I am not sure whether this is not the most satisfying bit of being a parent, mind you I do tend to like whatever stage I am at!
I have been very aware of change and transition again as the new academic year begins and teenagers go off to university, younger ones make the leap to secondary school and even younger ones start school for the first time. And new babies arrive. Transition time, easier for those like me who love change than for those who don't. I wonder how little Grace will be? She carries the name Joan after my mother. It moved me to tears when they told me and even typing it makes my throat thick again. My mother loved change and challenge and new things to do and through her I must have learnt the confidence that new things are to be embraced, that change can be energising, is not to be feared. I would wish that confidence for baby Grace but I know from looking at my other grandchildren that she will be who she is and that one of the great adventures of having children is to see the unfolding of the person.
One thing I know she will have is parents and a wider family who love her. Visiting them in these early days has been such a quiet delight, seeing Maddy and her husband working together, focussed so deeply on the baby, learning how to care for her but with each visit seeming more sure of themselves, caught up in the bubble of early parenthood. My father talked about what I am groping for, when he was still able to speak, the passing on of the baton he called it. It is not simply the thrill of the birth of the new generation. It is seeing your children, or in his case his grandchildren, step up to the plate and assume the responsibility, seeing their love, their patience, their absolute commitment to their children.
I feel it still with all our children. The pleasures of the granchildren are to do with each of them as they become their own people: the rumbustious but gentle nine year old, the intense, deep thinking five year old, the laughing, adventurous nearly two year old, the cheery one year old. Who knows what epithets will attach themselves to Grace as she grows? But the pleasures of watching our children, both mine and Ian's, parent those children with love and confidence and generosity, firm when they need to be, helping them learn boundaries, giving them roots and wings, these are constantly renewing deep satisfactions which I never realised would be so great a part of later life.
And in a couple of weeks there will be another baby when younger son and his wife have their second child. We are very lucky. I know families can be difficult and complicated places and heaven knows ours is neither simple nor perfect but mostly it is a very happy place to be. Thank you to my parents for what they gave to me. Thank you Ian for being at my side. Thank you children. Your children are lucky to have you.