As I looked around the room at my grandchildren holding their children, I felt as though I had time-traveled into the future, not quite able to come to grips with the fact that the ones whom I used to change their diapers and give good-night kisses were already parents. It didn’t seem possible that the years had sped by so quickly that already they were the ones threatening the little ones with a spanking, rather than being the miscreants.
But time doesn’t stop to wait for us slow down and spend time with the people who matter in our lives. We must remember just how fast time flies by, so that we don’t miss the important moments in their lives that signal their passing from one stage of life to the next one. It was learning of the pending birth of what will be my eighth great-grandchild that served as a reminder for me.
I missed a lot of their lives missed trying to fulfill my youthful dreams. I was 21 when I adopted my sister’s four children. Three years later I gave birth to my son. Additionally, I was 31 when my first grandchild was born, with two more grandchildren birthed into my home before I was age 40.
I spent my twenties, thirties, and forties raising children and grandchildren, to the exclusion of the events one expects to complete at these ages, such as going to college. My dreams were put on hold, because so many young people were depending on me for their physical, social, and spiritual sustenance.
By my fifties, all of the children had left with their offspring, and I felt it was finally my time. In that decade, I learned to drive a car, completed a PhD, traveled alone to Switzerland, remarried, and prepared to move away from the South, a lifelong dream.
My oldest daughter was so distraught at my leaving Atlanta, asking why would I leave my family, missing out on my seeing my grandchildren grow up. I told her, “The first fifty years of my life belonged to you all, and the second fifty years belong to me.” I was wrong, for we never stop parenting.
I thought that it would be alright, because I was always just a plane trip away. So, on a warm and a balmy day in May, Douglas and I drove away from Atlanta in the biggest U-Haul truck and made the first of several moves we have completed in our 14 years of marriage.
But the years went by so fast, and although I sent cards for birthdays, money for prom dresses, books, toys, and Christmas gifts, I realize that I missed so much. The little ones that I held on my lap are now grown women and men with their own families and lives, and I don’t know them in terms of their dreams or what they experienced as children and teenagers. That saddens me so much.
They know that I have always loved them, and they are always happy to see Grandma Gina, mainly because for most of their lives I have been this shadowy figure that they sometimes talked to on the phone. I was more of a legend that their parents told them of than a hands-on grandmother.
I have become acquainted with nearly all of my grandchildren since we moved back to the South. Thankfully, I was near enough to attend the last two college graduations. But, time does not go backwards, and all the hugs, kisses, words of encouragement, and shared moments of joy missed cannot be recaptured. I don’t want to miss any more important moments in their lives.
That’s part of the reason we are not moving to Europe on our next great adventure to travel the whole continent in the next five years, with a home in Spain as our base. Instead, we will move back to Atlanta again, coming full circle, and travel from there.
So, for those of you with small kids or teenagers, children or grandchildren, do not forsake moments with them now. Take them places and spend time with them. Tell them how much you love being with them and don’t want to miss a second of the lives. Let them know that you care about their activities.
One of my granddaughter was a cheerleader, and I only have a picture of her in her uniform to capture that time in her life. I don’t want to miss any other grandchild’s or great-grandchild’s ball games, plays, and other activities. The time passes so quickly that it is easy to do so, but it’s impossible to get that time back again.