Sara Teasdale is one of my favorite Twentieth-Century, American poets. In her poem, The Net, she describes the futility of trying to put into words how very special a certain person in her life is. She says that when she makes an effort to do this, it is “As though a net of words were flung to catch a star.” That poem describes any attempt on my part to put into words how special my grandchildren are to me. It simply cannot be done and every endeavor to do so falls short.
Because I was a mother before I became a grandmother, I realize for how short a time children remain children. I feel an urgent need to pass along to my grandchildren all of the important life lessons I have learned in my 60+ years of living. Therefore, unless I check myself, I am tempted to turn all of my experiences with them into science, math, morality or faith lessons.
Our oldest granddaughter is five now and ripe for instruction. While playing in our backyard, she and I came across a cocoon. She showed a mild interest so I explained how the little worm inside would gradually turn into a beautiful butterfly. I volunteered that it was very hard work for the young butterfly to break out of its shell. I warned that she or I might be tempted to help the butterfly escape by peeling away the layers of the cocoon, but that would keep the butterfly from developing the muscles it needs to be able to fly off into the sunshine. I looked into my granddaughter’s sweet face to see if she comprehended. She smiled warmly and said, “Besides, it would get our hands all icky.” Yes, that too.
This five-year-old misses her great-grandmother, who died just over a year ago. She asks many questions about where her Mee-Maw is now, why she had to go away, whether she is really underneath the dirt, does she sit on Jesus’ lap, etc. I explain that all of the good things she remembers about her Mee-Maw are still alive. Her Mee-Maw is now living in heaven and she is very happy there. I emphasize how important it is to love God and believe in Jesus and trust that we will be in heaven one day too. I am hoping I am making an impact when this little one exclaims, “And guess what, Grandma! Mee-Maw gave me a beach towel and it smells just like her house! You can smell it if you want to.” Ahhh, yes.
My granddaughter and I spend quite a bit of time putting together jigsaw puzzles. Her favorite puzzles feature Disney princesses. I have taught her how first to look for the four corner pieces, followed by the straight-edged pieces that form the border. Once those pieces are in place, the rest of the puzzle goes together easily. I want to compare the puzzle to life and to tell her that if a person has a good framework of faith, moral guidelines and discipline, all of the other pieces of life will fall into place. As I am considering how best to present this lesson, she looks up at me expectantly and says, “Uh, Grandma, I think you’re sitting on the stem of Belle’s rose.” Touché.
I won’t stop trying to instill in my grandchildren the principles I know to be important. Perhaps, though, I should lighten up a bit and simply enjoy them while they are still oblivious to principles. Another of Sara Teasdale’s poems, The Coin, emphasizes the importance of creating lasting memories. She says, “Oh, better than the minting of a gold-crowned king is the safe-kept memory of a lovely thing.” The “lovely thing” I am doing right now with these little ones is creating memories for them and for me.
As for the instruction part, I sometimes wonder who is teaching whom.