When my boys were young and wild, each of them requiring 100% of my full and undivided attention, I told them I expected six grandchildren from each of them someday. At least half had to be girls. After all, the granddaughters would be perfectly well-behaved little angels, right? And the boys would be payback.
In due time, they grew to be handsome and charming, married lovely girls and started producing babies. And shortly thereafter, each informed me that they would not be having six children. Imagine that. (snicker)
A Story Problem
We have quite a few friends in large families, and sometimes it ‘s easy to identify them by number or position in the family. “What is the name of the third Smith girl?” “Can you believe that woman is having her tenth baby?” “That youngest Jones boy is quite a handful.” “My oldest son is off to college in the fall.” Emma Schenstrom, in my book Baggage Claim, enjoys referring to her numerous offspring like that. It’s a family joke, and no one takes it personally. They’re all happy and well-adjusted. So I did the math – a story problem – for our own growing family:
We started with one granddaughter from our oldest son and his wife, and then the second son and his wife had a girl. Two perfect, precious granddaughters! Son #1 presented us with two grandsons, and then Son #2 and his wife had their first boy – Grandson #3. We had five grandchildren! Sons (and daughters-in-law) #2 and #3 both announced pregnancies last fall. Grandson #4, the first child of Son #3, was born a few weeks ago, and we are in daily expectation of the arrival of Granddaughter #3. Seven grandchildren. We may get two or three more, but they are definitely falling short of the eighteen I requested.
You don’t need to figure all of that out. It was just silliness. But recently, I was struck by a comment from my youngest daughter-in-law’s mother. We were talking about the new baby, and she said something to the effect that she was very (more) excited because this was their first grandchild and I already had a lot of them. She didn’t mean anything negative – she was just very excited – but it bothered me.
I don’t think of my grandchildren as a herd. They have names, not numbers, and each of them knows that Grandpa and Grandma loves them individually. This new little fellow stirred as much excitement in us as the first one did, and we are in a state of happy anticipation of our new granddaughter’s arrival.
When asked (or whenever I can work it into a conversation unsolicited), it’s usually easiest to say, “I have seven grandchildren.” The number gives me a prideful thrill, as if I’d accomplished it myself. In a way, that number – each of their positions within the family – is meaningful. It’s like a church. Our local body of believers is a church family. We are individually given various spiritual gifts, to build each other up, and they are all necessary for the functioning of the church. Likewise, we are all parts of the body of which Christ is the head. Grandson #2 may be a foot, and Granddaughter #3 may be an eye, but they are both equally important. That’s what a family is.
We are not numbers. God numbered the sparrows and the hairs on our head, but He knows us by name. In the Book of Life, you will find my name, not an account number.
That’s how it is with my grandchildren. Each new baby is as fresh and exciting as the oldest, who is still as fresh and exciting as the day we welcomed her into our family.
(And no, I couldn’t resist using that picture.)
Do you have grandchildren? How do you keep each of them special and individual while still bonding as a family – especially if you don’t live close together? It’s important to us, but we are finding it difficult to arrange visits with one child at a time. Schedules and transportation issues become complex. I love the “whole family” visits, but the one-on-one time is rare and precious.
How do you do it?