01 August 2016

How Our Children See Us

"How foolish to think you can tell your children about yourself before they're at least fifty. To ask to be seen by them as a person and not as a function. To say:  I am your history, you begin from me, listen to me, it could be useful to you." from  The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

In a few weeks I'll travel to Kansas to visit my son and meet second grandchild, a girl named Georgia, for the first time.  The last time we Skyped she hardly noticed me, more interested in crawling around and exploring the stuff on her father's desk. She'll have no recollection of me when we meet face to face.

Her older brother Henry calls me Gramma Alee. She'll probably follow his lead. It's evident she adores him from the photos I've seen. I haven't seen Henry in four or five years.

Georgia doing Frieda
Even though I'm always a little insecure with people under the age of 15 or so, once we've introduced ourselves in our own words I am usually able to focus more on them and less on my anxiety and we do just fine.

Georgia and Henry are both exceptionally bright children and, from what my son tells me, Georgia is as graceful a conversationalist as her brother. That always helps -- I like to talk to kids that enjoy conversation.

My son was that way when he was very young.  Curious about everything and courageous and highly gregarious.  I loved that about him and encouraged his fearless engagement with the world. I still love that about him. He knew I "had his back" as they say.

I still love that about him but his sense of me having his back has diminished. He just turned 38. I don't hear from him very often. Since he found his life partner -- a beautiful woman who mostly presents as my temperamental opposite -- he's been intent on protecting her and the children from me (his word).

When he was about 11, he asked me to tell him the story of my life and I did. I hope some day he'll ask me again to tell him the story of my life. I think he'll understand it better this time. I think he'll meet me at last and realize I was never a threat to his family.