The next generation in my large family, including my children, and my nieces and nephews, are having babies. I watch their happiness, exhaustion and obsessiveness, and I remember. In spite of it being over thirty years ago, I remember very clearly what those days were like. What most clearly comes to mind is how I kept looking forward to the “next” stage, instead of enjoying the present.
My excuse was that, at least with my first born, I spent a lot of time alone: I lived with my husband and baby in a place where I didn’t have friends—at least not at first—who had children. None of my old friends did and they all worked. My husband was at the beginning of his career so he was gone all day and often into the night. He sometimes even had to work on the weekends. There was a lot of alone time.
I loved my son. He was a great baby. But he wasn’t much company and certainly not someone I could talk to. When he was about six months old, I did start making friends who had babies, but then we moved and I had to start over again—in December in the Northeast. I spent the next three or four months either in the house or driving around the suburbs of New Jersey after my son woke up from his nap. To this day I know more back roads in northern New Jersey than anyone I know.
I’m not sure if my experience would be repeated today. The obvious solution, in hindsight, was for me to get a part time job. Even if it were only a couple of days a week, it would have gotten me out of the house and with other adults. But thirty years ago was still a time when women were “fortunate” if they could stay home, even if they were lawyers.
But besides getting a part time job, I’d tell myself to cherish the time I had with my son and then my twin daughters when they came along. When I go through photographs from back then, I realize how young I was, as was my husband and even my parents and his. We couldn’t imagine, my husband and I, life in the future when our children would be grown and gone. But that day did come.
Maybe that’s what being a grandparent is about: we finally have the wisdom to enjoy the little moments and the quiet and the details of a young child’s life before they’re up and running.
There was one additional positive impact from all that time alone. I started writing. Since I had no one to talk to except my infant, I started keeping a journal that morphed into a novel. That first novel is tucked away in some draw in my office, but when it was done, I started another and then another after that. I was on my way.