Saturday, May 06, 2006

It’s not babysitting. It’s grand-parenting.

Eyes flashed as her tongue snapped a response worthy of the steamy August Missouri evening.

I asked a male acquaintance to accompany me to the local golf course. He said he was to be with his children while his wife completed certain tasks and activities. In a moment of dubious humor, I responded, “Oh, are you baby-sitting today?”

She answered for him. Quickly. “It’s not baby-sitting. It’s called parenting.”


Feeling the sting of rebuke and with no effort on her part to lesson the discomfort, I extricated myself from that situation, backing out of the room lest I provide an undefended target. The prompt and efficient response was not merely a shot across the bow. It had the appearance of an ongoing conversation that, doubtless, would continue unabated long after my departure.

I have no illusion of being a great parent. I earned the requisite hours to bear the title “Absent Parent.” Employment and personal education schedules were significant symptoms of the common parental disease “familius interuptus.”

In my defense, I encouraged my daughters’ academic challenges and athletic opportunities. I once verbally duked it out with a fourth grade teacher I believed “done us wrong.” When one of our offspring began to wander from the road society encouraged her to travel, along with my wife, I spent multiple hours with school administration and professional services to understand and protect her.

Most of the time, however (I’ll say for the people who are afraid to), I was clueless.

Some expert may point out if I spent more time with them when they were wearing diapers instead of waiting for them to don their jeans, I would be awash in clues. I doubt it, actually.

However, I am prepared for their children. I am a grandparent reaping the windfall profits and mega-dividends of the meager investment I made in their parents.

My grandchildren are very patient. They allow me to indulge in whimsy’s and digressions, writing it off, I suppose, to the old guy’s senility catching up with him. They are welcoming. I have standing invitations to watch them at athletic practices, school events and take them to an ice cream stand. The two second generation offspring who live near me and the three separated by 6 hours drive time express affection verbally, quickly affirmed by their hugs and tugs.

I think I disagree with my she-bear acquaintance. She made parenting sound so task-oriented. (I guess baby-sitting isn’t much better.) Watching and sharing a young person’s life is more than making sure they don’t do something stupid. It is making memories and creating a bond that has the strength to endure life – a bond that ties not just people to each other but generations together.