My father died in December. He had spent the last several years very unwell, and my mother spent a lot of her time taking care of him. That is a difficult situation for any family, but it is even more difficult when the person you are caring for continuously makes choices that contribute to their bad health. And so, although he was a loved man, the result was a team of fairly frustrated family members.
My biggest frustration was trying to understand why he didn’t make choices that would allow him to be involved more fully in the lives of his grandchildren. He adored each and every one of them. Every morning he asked my mother which of his grandbabies was going to visit that day. He had frequent visits from his collection of loving grandkids, who called him The Gaffer. Kids would disappear into his man cave and they’d have the place trashed instantly – toys everywhere, cushions off the couches and the TV channel changed to their station. Every visit was a kid invasion into The Gaffer’s space. Interestingly, he was not at all bothered by the noise or chaos. He was never impatient with them and he certainly never snapped at any child. Visits ended with hugs, kisses and “I love you’s”.
I felt that relationship wasn’t good enough because he didn’t actually DO anything with my children. His illness made it so he couldn’t – that pesky illness that didn’t really have to be there. My dad never read to the children, and certainly never played a board game or did a puzzle with them. He didn’t take them out for walks or do any of the other things I see active grandparents doing with their grandchildren. It made me sad that he was missing out. And, so were my kids.
Apparently, I was wrong. A couple of weeks after his death, my 9-year-old daughter emerged from her bedroom at midnight to share a drawing of him. Included in the illustration were several messages and statements – one for each day since he had died. The most striking message to me was “I loved EVERYTHING about you”.
All that time I thought he wasn’t DOING anything with his grandchildren, he was very actively doing the thing that was most important to them. He was loving them. And it was all they needed.
As parents, we all have different levels of comfort when it comes to safety. I’ve spoken about how I don’t care if my kids swim in polluted waters, climb trees or go on unsupervised adventures around the neighbourhood. However, my fear of choking has meant that they have never had a hard candy in their lives. Nope, not even a Lifesaver. If I see some random kid sucking on the dreaded gobstopper, I have to leave the room because my anxiety levels rise. If a kid is running around the park with a lollipop, I either have to pack up my children and leave or beg the parent to make the child sit down until finished.
I have one other extreme paranoia – folks forgetting to put on the stroller brakes when they stop to tie shoes or zip up the coats of their older children.
I’ve explained this concern to my older children. I’ve told them that neglecting to put on the stroller brakes means a wind could come along and blow the baby straight onto the road. If there is a slight incline on the sidewalk or path, baby could roll into a dangerous situation. A couple of weeks ago while out for a walk, I noticed that one of the biggies didn’t put the stroller brakes on when we stopped to chat with a neighbour. I once again explained the importance of it but just didn’t feel like they really understood. I told them that we were heading home so that I could show them a video clip of what can happen when the brakes are not on.
Have a quick watch. What you should know is that by some crazy miracle, the baby was JUST FINE. Not so sure how the poor mama has recovered.
Was it harsh to show my children this video? Perhaps it was. I worried that they might have nightmares. In the end, I decided that nightmares are not such a bad thing if it spares them a lifetime of sadness and guilt."