Lest you all start popping champagne corks and bursting into spontaneous renditions of “Happy Days Are Here Again”, let me assure you that I am in excellent health. Having turned 50 I recently underwent a couple of medical tests and whilst they were both positive in their findings, they resulted in me spending more time than usual contemplating my mortality. Most people my age have college age kids, and most people with kids the ages of mine are a good ten to fifteen years younger than me, so this leaves me in a sort of generational netherworld.
I’m being purely selfish here, in that I often wonder if I will live long enough to see my grandchildren. Yes, I know how petty that sounds, but I see how much my dad enjoys spending time with my kids, and my mother just adored my daughter so it makes me jealous to some extent. My son is twelve and if things pan out as I hope, he will go on to get some sort of engineering PhD after graduation. He may well have to invent the particular branch of engineering in question, so at best, it may be 20 years before he starts a family. My daughter is only 9, so twenty years doesn’t seem unreasonable for her either, seeing as she is as needle-sharp as her brother. I hope that I will be a hale and hearty seventy year old, but one never knows what will happen. There is an old joke that goes: “How do you make God laugh? – tell him your plans”.
Whilst unpacking in my new home ( see “Space Oddity” – coming soon) I found a couple of old photographs: one was of my son when he was not yet two years old, the other of him and his sister taken a little over a year later. Not to get maudlin, but both pictures showed two adorable, sweet, happy and contented children and I couldn’t help but think about their development over the intervening years and how much wonder, joy, satisfaction and pride I’ve enjoyed in seeing them flourish. That sweet little round cheeked boy has now turned into a sensitive, intelligent, handsome young man and his sister is an insightful thinker, artist, soccer player and equestrian who is, I am sure, bound for greatness in at least one of those fields.
It breaks my spirit to think that I may not live long enough to see my putative grandchildren reach the age my children are at now. I’m pretty sure I won’t be around for their college graduations unless medical science makes some significant advances in the next two decades. Grandchildren are the payback generation, in that we put in immense amounts of physical, emotional and financial resources to ensure that our kids have as fulfilling a childhood as possible in the knowledge that when they themselves become parents we can sit back, reminisce about the early years and dote on our grandchildren who will never know what it was like to be a parent at the start of the century.
I think also that grandchildren are the ultimate validation of our parenting skills in that they are proof that we raised well rounded human beings who were fully aware of, and integrated into the world so that they had the skills to raise children who would be better human beings than their parents, as their parents were compared to their own parents. I know I should be living in the moment and enjoying seeing my kids turn into young adults, and I do, but there is part of my brain that just can’t let go of the thought of all that I will be missing.