Grandfamilies: Leave Room for Dragonflies


One Really Big Dragonfly. Wingspan: Over Six Inches.

Sheila, are you okay? My coworker called out. There I stood–or rather, stooped–on the sidewalk leading to our office door. On Monday morning. At 8:03. I’d tossed my jacket, handbag, and lunch sack  on the walkway beside me.

I’m fine, thanks for asking! I just had to stop and snap a picture of this gorgeous dragonfly. I’ve never seen one so big! My coworker allowed as how she had never seen a dragonfly so big, either, then gracefully edged around my impromptu photo shoot and continued on her way.

Before I became a grandmother, I probably would have hustled right past that glorious dragonfly. After all, I had meetings to schedule and email to read. But my grandlittles have taught me, over and over, that the moments that make memories are capricious: each dragonfly, every cloud that looks like Mickey Mouse, all the songs that make us want to clap our hands and join in, come and go at their whim. And we have a choice:

We can be interruptible, and marvel at wonders as they cross our paths, or we can hurry along, committed to our own agendas and our cherished misapprehension that we are in control of our schedules.

Sometimes we can’t stop, and I get that. There are consequences to tardiness, responsibilities to meet, penalties for overstaying our allotted time at a parking meter. Real life hurtles along at its own grinding pace, whether we keep up or not.

Children know the difference between proximity and attentionOne of my grandlittles taught me this lesson when I  visited for Christmas. Mind you, I had spent a great deal of money and 20 hours traveling to be with him, his sister, and his parents. He was nestled in my lap while I, under some kind of zombietizing  gravitational tug, scanned my email.

I helped Mommy decorate the tree, he chirped.


Can we play Jake and the Never Land Pirates? 

In a minute, I mumbled.

Want to color? he asked.

Soon, I said.

Lala, he finally declared. I don’t have your eyes with me. I need your eyes. 

And so he did.

And, I daresay, so do the children in your life. Be they nieces, nephews, grandchildren, neighbors, the Sunday school class, or even your own dear offspring, I’d wager my salary  that this is true:

They don’t need your presents, or your wit, or your annual passes to Disneyland. They need you. 

You only have one year to take your beloved three-year-old fishing, and then that opportunity is gone forever. Sure, you could still take the child fishing, but you would be taking a four-year-old or five-year-old–not that three-year-old.

It’s not the same. 

rabbit conga

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

James 4:13-17 (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.


  1. Marvelous. Absolutely marvelous. And so in line with my own passion for slowing down, as I highlighted in my book Not So Fast targeted to parents. How fascinating that the next generation up needs to be reminded to slow down to the pace of their grandchildren, just as parents need the same reminder for their kids.

    I’ve done the same thing, stooping down to photograph a giant snowflake contrasting dramatically against black asphalt (a sight you may never have seen!), and to point out a goldfinch, and to gasp at a hawk. Let’s not miss another moment! I especially love your last point about having only one year to take a three-year-old fishing. After that year, that child will be a four-year-old, and it’s not the same…not the same at all. Powerful post, Sheila.

  2. Ann, thank you for your kind words. They mean so much to me. And you are absolutely right–I have never seen a giant snowflake contrasted against the asphalt.

    Not So Fast is a gift to families. I am so glad you wrote that book.

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