"And we are put on Earth a little space | That we may learn to bear the beams of love." ~ William BlakeWhen I learned I was to be a grandfather I was reluctant to accept the banner. Not that I had any say in the matter, this baby was going to arrive on its own schedule no matter my misgivings about taking on the new role. My reservations had little to do with any responsibilities grandfathering might bring. I was simply not old enough to be called "grandpa" by anyone, much less this new person with whom I had no history!
"How's it feel that you're going to be a grandpa?" I was asked, repeatedly.
"Old," would be my response.
This all changed when she was presented to us outside the delivery room, a beautiful swaddled little flower with a head of thick, jet-black hair.
She continues to bloom, this flower, her hair now strawberry blond like her mother's. On that day, June 3rd, my journey would become broadened, richer. On that day the Universe extended it's hands and provided me a gift I would not be aware of for some time. This gift, this miracle would unfold before me as gently and unhurriedly as this baby would begin to grow and embrace the love, the life and the world surrounding her.
We were building a history together. I became a rapt spectator to her every move, each new word she would say, every new song she would sing.
And one day she called me, "Grandpa!" as I was met at her door, she running to me, all her tiny arms, hands and fingers wrapped around my neck.
I was GRANDPA. I had arrived.
I soon discovered the secret to grandparenting stumbling upon this almost by accident. I quickly found myself falling in love with this little blossom through observation, not interaction. I took note of her laughter, glimpses of her interactions with her father, our son, witnessed her meltdowns, pathetic sadnesses as if she had the weight of the world upon her two-year old shoulders. I watched as her parents attempted to redirect her defiance - sometimes successfully.
"This is so funny, observing this," I would muse. "This is so karmic. This is Universal payback for the Sturm und Drang our kids had so generously gifted us during their adolescence."
How small-minded this thinking was. The Universe isn't petty. The Universe isn't interested in payback. The Universe is about learning, it is about doorways to opportunities and awareness as a pathway to growth and happiness.
Time passed and I still wasn't getting it. I began to watch our granddaughter as she, even at age 2, was stretching the boundaries of toddler propriety. I began to keep a non judgemental watch on our son as he attempted, mostly unsuccessfully, to reign in one of God's freest and fiercest spirits. I began to realize I was missing the point, I was missing the beauty before me by concentrating on the irony, not the joy of my granddaughter.
One day a friend on a similar journey as ours mentioned a secret that had served her well through years of recovery as a parent of an alcoholic.
"I just stay in my own hula hoop," she shared.
This was like a parting of the clouds revealing a heavenly light of understanding and epiphany. I made the leap from my friend's experience with her son to so much time wasted by not simply revelling in our granddaughter's joyfulness. I had been jumping into our son's parent hula hoop. There was a hula hoop waiting for me, emblazoned with the word GRANDPA.
I now watch our granddaughter in her quest for experience, adventure, love, understanding, not a small amount of independence and joyful laughter. I no longer jump into our son's hula hoop to share what he may be experiencing as a parent of a toddler in constant motion. Nor do I discipline or harbor any thoughts of what I might do when a parenting situation arises. This would require a leap combining 2 hula hoops, or two souls in one, a circus act detour off my journey pathway into a chasm of the absurd. I am able to experience the NOW. I do not insert myself. I simply AM with our granddaughter.
This little blossoming flower has provided a metaphor for us all as we continue our recoveries as parents of children addicted to any substance or behavior. We can choose to remain in our own hula hoops, whatever our expertise or attempt to jump into our son's or daughter's circle. It requires a lot of practice to accomplish this, jumping into our children's lives. We know practice makes perfect - perfect misery. It might even require an enlargement of the hula hoop, an expansion of the vortex into which our children have plummeted.
But now, we know. We know this. We would only be in the way.
We know inserting ourselves into our children's lives is pointless, counterproductive and insulting to their abilities.
We have our own hula-hoop momentum to maintain. It takes enough effort to keep our lives in sync without jumping into the lives of others.
There's simply no joy in it.
Who knows? Perhaps our sons will notice our delicate balancing act as we concentrate on keeping our lives moving. Our daughters may understand it is inevitably up to them to take hold of their hoop and make that first push forward to begin the magical momentum of living life.
In the meantime, stay in your own hula hoop. Close your eyes and hear the swoosh-swoosh of life in recovery. It is a sweet sound to behold.
"Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future." ~ Deepak Chopra