The grandchildren

It’s fascinating watching a child grow from a distance.

I am an only child, so my experience with children was absolutely zero. Motherhood was like finding myself teaching a class in quantum physics when I never got past algebra and chemistry. I did my very imperfect best. And if there’s one thing I hope my children knew, and still know, it’s that I love them unconditionally. There was no distance, and no need for objectivity. I didn’t expect them to be perfect. But they brought me experiences without which I’m convinced my life would have felt half-lived. What else could I ask of them except to find a way to be happy with their lives?

I now have the chance to observe children I love grow into who they are with a little more objectivity. My son has two daughters. The first, Little Miss Sunshine, has been a pocketful of delight from her first moment. The world was, she is certain, created for her enjoyment. She has a happy, adventurous spirit, precocious, stubborn, and quick to laugh.

Her little sister, The Deep Thinker, is a much quieter soul. She prefers to observe the world from the safety of her mother’s arms, or at least within eyesight. She is slow to warm up. She recently turned one, but the wheels are clearly turning. She blurts out a word that is simply perfect for the moment when it is least expected, and then smiles happily.

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Sunshine, however, is also discovering that being two and a half years old is not easy.

“It’s hard to be little,” she told me somberly.

Sunshine is a sweet soul, but she’s no pushover. She displays mastery of the “I can’t hear you” form of defiance, and can switch to storm-cloud mode with great skill. When things don’t go her way, she has a special rock she runs to where she can sit and sulk. She deflects realities she doesn’t care for, like bedtime, and shakes off a helping hand when she’s on a walk with a cheerful, “I’m fine.”

I was lucky enough to be visiting when she was in the midst of a meltdown, and suddenly paused, looking from her mother to me with wonder.

“I’m crying!” she observed.

“Yes, you are,” we agreed. It took everything we had not to laugh. But it was a serious matter, and we treated it with the seriousness it deserved.

And then she was on to her next adventure.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.