Last Friday, January 18th, I became a grandfather. I was in Singapore. Austin Tan arrived in Melbourne. I heard the news. I saw the pics. I can’t wait to carry him, to kiss him, to smell him, like my dad carried me, and kissed me and smelled me when I was a baby.
It’s still hard to take it all in. I am used to thinking of granddads as white haired old dudes sitting in rocking chairs. Granddads were old. I don’t feel old. And I am not in a rocking chair yet. But I am a granddad. And I rejoice with Stephen and Kallie at the arrival of Austin. I am so glad that Bernice is with them so I know they are in great hands. It’s still a bit unreal for me. I think it will be more real when I hold him in my arms, or get baptised by his pee or his regurgitated milk.
I am gripped with mixed emotions. One I didn’t expect. There was a moment when I was overwhelmed with the wish that I was starting as a parent all over again, that I had a chance to go back in time and parent Stephen and Andrew with what I know of life and of parenting now. It seems that parenting, like many things in life, is lived forward but understood looking back. I like to believe I would have been a better dad if I had a chance to do it all over again with what I know now.
But life is not structured that way. I can’t go back in time. But I can offer what I know to Stephen and Kallie and to other new parents. Perhaps that was God’s plan all along. After all, in the Old Testament there would be at least three generations living together. Parenting would have been a family affair something much harder to do with the modern nuclear family.
Having said that, I am also aware of situations where grandparents interfere with how parents raise their children. That would be the last thing we want to do. Parents have direct responsibility for their children. Grandparents and others must respect that.
Yet it would seem that major transitions like marriage and parenting would be helped with loving companions coming alongside. We now live in an information age where the young know more than the old, but the old have more experience and can share what they have learned—especially what they have learned from their mistakes and God knows I made many mistakes in my parenting.
A child is a trust, a mystery, a hope, a responsibility. In an act of divine hubris, God entrusts this soul to you and expects you to raise him to be the person God wants him or her to be. Who is equal to such a task? Yet quietly we hear the divine whisper of Abba. “I know what I am doing. Learn from me. I will be with you.” So welcome Austin Tan, to the adventure of life, and welcome Stephen and Kallie, to the high calling of parenthood. You are not alone.