Grandparenting: One Size Fits None

Casey ReneeCasey Renee, About One Hour Old. August 5, 2013

Impossible . . . 

One of my anthropology professors liked to paraphrase Heraclitus. You can’t swim in the same river twice, he would tell us. The older I get, the more I feel the truth of it: stuff changes. On this earth, just about everything is dynamic.

When I think of the births of our grandbabies, I recall that shifting river. Rich and I had the great privilege of being present at the hospital for the births of three of our nine grandchildren. And in each of those three occasions, the mama’s plans for delivery-room access varied. 

Of those three babies, the first was our granddaughter Carly Madison, who arrived on a summer day in 2008. Carly is the daughter of Rich’s widowed daughter-in-law Rachael and her new husband, Kevin.

[If you’re paying careful attention, you will note that we have no genetic connection with Carly. To which we would say so what.]

Carly’s older brother is Ayden Scott, who is the son of Rich’s now-deceased son, Sean. Not too long before Carly was born, I said to Rachael,

I was thinking that if you’d like, I can take care of Ayden while you deliver this baby. 

She replied, Actually, I was kind of hoping you two would be there. My dad will watch Ayden for us. 

As you might imagine, we marked the due date on our calendar and and waited eagerly. And one day not too much later, Kevin called me at 5 a.m. to tell us that Rachael was in labor. We dumped our coffee into go-cups and headed for the door.

When the moment for delivery drew near, we prepared to leave the room.

Don’t leave now, Rachael said. You’ve been with me all day. So we witnessed Carly’s birth and her first breath alongside proud daddy Kevin, his aunt, and Rachael’s mom.

Profound doesn’t begin to characterize that moment. 

Two years later, when Sawyer Anton arrived, my daughter made it clear that grandparents were welcome in the labor room–up to a point. She also identified that point for us, when the moment came. The four of us vacated the labor room and staked out space in the waiting room to wait for the happy announcement. 

Three years after that, when Casey Renee was a work in progress, Rachael let us know that she and Kevin had decided to forego guests during labor and deliveryGreat! I said. And I meant it.

These two mamas had three different plans for their birth experiences. As grandparents, we say Good for you! 

For me, these decisions marked an opportunity. We could show our kids that we honored the sovereignty of their grown-up lives. It was a chance to say you’ve built yourself a new primary family. And we’re thrilled for you. 

It was a chance to extend grace. It’s good practice to grab every opportunity to extend grace.

But here is the central thing, the main thing, the thing I invite you to think about with me: If we trust these grown-up kids of ours to call the shots at an event so huge, so life-changing, as the birth of a child, why on earth would we ever question their decisions about things less earth-shattering than welcoming a new person into the world? And by my lights, just about everything else is less than bringing a life into this world–at least in terms of importance.

How about you? Share a birth story with us? What message do you want to underline for your adult kids? How do you extend grace to them?

 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24 (NASB)

rabbit conga

On Tuesdays, we’re talking about families and the joys and challenges that arise when we stretch across three (or more?) generations (child, parent, grandparent). The conversation began on January sixth  and we’ll continue until we run out of things to say. Everyone is welcome, and I hope to hear from each generation’s perspective.  Being family is by turns effortless, impossible, blessed, challenging, hurtful, joyous . . . . Let’s talk about it.

Please join us.

Leave a Comment