Ed Harris, Jewish Sound Columnist
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article entitled “The Long (Long) Wait to be a Grandparent.” Tell me about it. We baby boomers took longer to marry and have kids than prior generations, and millennials are pushing these traditional milestones of adulthood out even further. Hence the millions of older adults like me ready for grandkids but empty-handed, or. should I say, empty-lapped.
Somehow the future snuck up on me before I was ready. When my wife and I moved to Seattle our oldest child, Gabriela, was a mere infant. A new baby brother, Sam, came along a few years later. And then, just like Abraham and Sarah, we were unexpectedly blessed with another bundle of joy, Izzy, delivered by stork straight from Guatemala. During this stretch, time passed by in a blur. I think I went about 15 years without ever once getting a single night of uninterrupted sleep.
Our first pediatrician told us the best way to calm a colicky infant is to try bottle, diaper, motion, repeated either over and over until either the baby stops crying or the parent in question becomes completely unhinged and runs screaming down the street stark naked. A number of years ago, a neighbor, who noticed the spectacle of kids constantly bouncing off our living room couch and flying through the air, asked my wife if she ran a day care.
The messiness and endless wiping of sticky surfaces associated with small children was then replaced by countless hours of homework, which hijacked family evenings and raised anxiety levels. I recall one business trip I took while my parents were visiting. With the assistance of three adults in the house, Gabriela was still unable to finish her 4th grade English assignment, and from another city I spent an hour on the phone with her, excusing myself from a business dinner in the process.
As the kids got older and sleep was usually less of a concern, there was still the occasional nightmare. At around age 10 Gabriela went through a stretch of fantastically vivid dreams about food. “Look Sam, we’re prunes,” she exclaimed at one point as she thrashed through what ended up as yet another a wide-awake night for my wife and me.
Then, suddenly, we blinked our eyes and found the house eerily quiet. Gabriela is now married, to a fine young man. Sam is in college. Izzy is in high school. It seems like only yesterday that I would come from work in the evening and within seconds be rolling on the floor, gang tackled by a swarm of children eager to play with their dad. Or Gabriela would challenge me to a “muscle fight” which consisted of her punching me straight in the gut as hard as she could. Ah, the joys of parenthood.
Will my wife and I be like the forlorn boomers profiled in the Wall Street Journal? Gabriela is still only 24 years old. Sam is in college. He’s gay, which would have been an obstacle to conjuring up offspring in less enlightened times. But he’s sandwiched in between two adopted siblings, so he knows there are alternative routes to parenthood and thus is not relieved of his grandkid quota. (Once, when Gabriela was an infant, someone in the supermarket asked my wife if she was “the real mom.” She pinched her arm and said, “Yup, it looks like I’m real). And bringing up the rear, at age 15 is Izzy. He needs to stay focused on his homework.
I remain hopeful. The best part of grandparenting, should we be so blessed, is my wife and I would get the small fry for a few hours and then hand them back to their parents, to let them experience the joy of sleepless nights first hand.
I work out religiously on the treadmill, and have maintained myself in fighting trim: I’m ready for a 5-year-old’s punch to the solar plexus. Now if only I had someone who could deliver it.
Ed Harris, the author of “Fifty Shades of Schwarz” and several other books, was born in the Bronx and lives in Bellevue with his family. His blog, Fizz-Ed, and additional information about his books are available at www.edharrisauthor.com.