Montreal Gazette


The arrival of grandchild­ren brings yet another perspectiv­e


There was a time when things went quickly. First days of school, birthday parties, endless brown bag lunches, days at work when I couldn't leave till the story was done.

Then another time, a bit slower, after the children left home and before retirement. Trips finally taken, now that there was time and money. Work goals met, sometimes exceeded, and another sense that nobody noticed when they weren't. Some losses, to be sure. Friends who died too early. Relationsh­ips that ended.

And now, this. I feel a downshift, just like in my Honda Civic when I ram the stick from third to second before the brakes have had time to catch up. Suddenly, there is a dramatic, even clunky, slowing down. In that moment, something opens up as a new rhythm is establishe­d.

Today, in that downshifte­d space, grandchild­ren have appeared. People said that when the grandchild­ren came, it would be startling, the degree of love one would feel for them, just as if they came from your own body. I am not sure I could love anyone more fiercely than my own boys, now giant men. Love is a given with the new little ones, yes, but there is also distance, a chunk of time across which it is easier to observe not only the next generation, but ourselves.

So it was with Evan, 2, and Claire, 4, my husband's grandchild­ren, who visited over the summer from the United States. Oh, you could eat them with a spoon, as they careened through the house, shiny with their soft skin and tiny teeth. Their attachment to their mother (their dad bound to home by work) brought tears to my eyes. “Mommy's up,” said the two-year-old with so much joy when Kim emerged from her room (sleeping in, just a titch, because grandparen­ts were there to pour the Cheerios and change the diapers).

I was always a bit of a law-andorder mommy. Friends jokingly referred to our home as “Liane's House of Firmness” because there were rules about bedtime and chores and the amount of television consumed.

To be free of that reputation, now, as a grandparen­t, is an enormous relief. But with that freedom, comes space. What to do now that there are no rules to enforce, because that's no longer my job? What happens instead?

Frantic, I find some brown paper lunch bags under the kitchen counter and crayons mouldering in an upstairs desk drawer. My mind scrambles to imagine other craft supplies. Are there any loose buttons in this house? Cotton balls? Glue sticks? How can this experience be better for the children?

In the end, wooden spoons and packing tape are all that's necessary. In a few minutes, the puppets are done. The children dance about the house, bashing at each other's puffy bagged and crayoned faces on sticks, delighted with this small effort.

This is actually not that hard. Why did it seem so hard before? Perhaps it's because life was stuck in fourth, even fifth gear, all those years ago. Now, it's shifted from high to low. Perhaps easing up was all that was ever necessary. But I couldn't see it. Too wound up.

This is what is noticeable about the seventh decade of life.

So much effort was applied before, so much angst. While angst is critical from time to time (who gets anything done otherwise?), I probably laid it on a bit thick. As a newspaper columnist, I often wrote entire columns and discarded them for not being good enough, and then was forced to write something else in a short period of time — and believe me, that column was quite a bit worse than the first one.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOT­O ?? Looking after children at play as a grandparen­t has a much different feel from the one you had as a parent.
GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOT­O Looking after children at play as a grandparen­t has a much different feel from the one you had as a parent.
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