I’m just back from a visit to my 4 grand daughters. Due to their father’s work they live in densely populated, tropical country on the other side of the world from our home in Palm Heights (elevation 14 feet). Dropping in on them isn’t an option. Flying across 12 time zones takes 20 hours each way plus a layover in the U.S. and another in a huge Asian airport. I’ve visited often and no longer do much of the tourist thing there.
My travel has to be scheduled around the girls’ school holidays. I naively thought this would end after their father’s and uncle’s school years. Because I only see the girls two or three times a year I pay much closer attention to each of them individually than I did when they lived nearby. I also pay closer attention to the evolving ways in which I consciously grandparent (v.t.), including my preference for longer periods with each of them one at a time.
The oldest is almost 11, nearly as tall as her mother. She is on the cusp of all kinds of natural yet revolutionary physical and emotional changes. The second is 7. Watching her dance and create stories is like watching perpetual imagination. The third is 5. She is a take-charge woman, issues commands, and is seldom in doubt about what she wants. The youngest had her 1st birthday during my visit. She’s all blond hair, blue eyes, and saliva at the moment. They all swim like fish. The older 3 girls study Mandarin as well as English in school, a discipline smart schools here might consider adopting. Their classmates come from many countries and they celebrate each other’s holidays with astonishing ease and sincerity.
Three things from my visit struck me the most:
1. The extent to which technologies are part of the girls lives
2. How much my grand daughters each have to learn every day to just to keep up with the pace of learning around them
3. The Joy of Patina (Patina: accumulated changes in surface texture and color that result from normal use of an object over time.)
My son and daughter-in-law are parenting in a world I didn’t anticipate when I was parenting. I am deeply impressed with their acumen in today’s world as parents to their children. My grand daughters already live in a world immeasurably different from my parents’ world after WWII. The girls play, they laugh, they cry like all children do. Yet every day is also in some measure an ongoing exercise in memorizing facts, developing critical thinking, extending social skills, observing, copying, testing, inventing, and integrating. It’s a lot of work. If it weren’t so they would arrive at age 25 substantially unprepared. How does a girl arrive at being a great 11 year old? She doesn’t start at 10.
So I watched the girls at play and thought about how much I know that they don’t yet. I thought how happy I am that I don’t have to start again at the beginning. Looking in the mirror, I toasted Brown Eyes and our friends and neighbors, people of personal patina and the ability to be joyous about it amidst the wrinkles and baldness and the uncertainties of life between 50 and Elderly. Of course, we’re not done learning and adapting yet. How could we be? Life still has surprises in store for us, and we’ll need to be on our toes.
How does a woman or a man arrive at being a great 80 year old? Not by starting at 79. The Joy of Patina had struck home with me, a gift of awareness and appreciation.
-as published in Living Out East and On the Bay http://www.livingouteast.com
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Talk to you soon, George