A few weeks ago, I flew to Seattle, where both my daughters live. It’s also where my granddaughter, Moira, lives. I’m not really a “kid” person. I wasn’t comfortable around children, even when I was one.
You make exceptions for your own, though. Both my daughters owned me before they even learned to say “Daddy.” You show me a father with daughters; I’ll show you someone who should wear a T-shirt with the word “SLAVE” stenciled across the back.
I really enjoyed my family time with Moira and her mommy and daddy and also her awesome auntie.
At 15 months, Moira is started to toddle all over. She’s standoffish around strangers, though, including me. She takes one look at my beard and decides she wants mommy. Plainly, this child has not yet discovered the profit potential in sucking up to grandparents.
By next summer, I bet she’ll have figured out how to twine me around her little finger. She’ll be on me and my better half, Kate, like flies on fruitcake. The grandma and grandpa child-spoiling agency is just over the horizon.
That’s the way of things, and Moira will catch on fast. She’s a bright kid. Cute as the dickens, too, even when she’s giving me that squinty, “I don’t know you so I’m staying with mommy” look. Once we get past baby fears and suspicions, all kinds of potential open up.
The world is such a complicated place. The harshest lesson Moira’s learned so far is that it hurts when you fall on your elbow. She’s her parents’ first baby. They have heart stoppage with every scrape.
There are, of course, lessons waiting out there that will make a skinned elbow look like an angel’s kiss. Being a parent (or grandparent) is scary business. You know you can only stop a few of those scrapes, not all of them.
Still, Moira has played it smart, so far. She did a great job on the most important decision of all: her parents and the place she was born. She chose two Euro-American college graduates and a hospital
I’m being kind of sarcastic, of course. No one chooses where to be born. But from what I’ve seen, we do treat kids born into impoverished circumstances as though it were their own choice and their own fault.
Where would you rather your granddaughter be born: to struggling college graduates in Seattle or to a laborer in Sonora, Mexico? Columbus Regional Hospital or Guatemala City?
We treat unfortunate grandchildren as though their parents and birthplace were their own mistake. Not smart choosers like me — Grand Junction, Colorado. Or you, apparently.
Where would you prefer your grandchild be born: Columbus or the Gaza Strip? Bartholomew County or Somalia? Because, make no mistake, our parents and birthplace determine more of our future than anything we will ever do on our own.
So I watch my granddaughter with mixed feelings. She’s got a lot of advantages, right from the get-go. But the world is a harsh place. Who knows what’s waiting around the corner? Her parents hope and worry. I hope and worry.
And I wonder. If we didn’t look at everyone else’s kids the way 15-month-old Moira looks at strangers, if we worried a bit more about everyone’s grandchildren, not just our own, would we all be a little safer and happier in the long run? Might it be worth a try?
The Rev. Dennis McCarty is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Columbus. His opinions are his own, and members of his church may or may not agree with them. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.