My seven-year-old grandson is starting to ask the big questions. After a litany of similar questions, right up until he asked how old his Nana would be when he turned 99, there was silence in the car. That might be due to my answer that I would be long gone by that time. Rather than let him dwell on my ultimate demise, I turned the conversation into a learning experience. We began to figure out the life spans of a variety of animals including dogs, cats, parrots, elephants, and tortoises. When he heard that some tortoises can live over one hundred years, he said he wishes he were one.
I love this questioning phase of childhood, when no question is off-limits. There are so many things that are old hat for me as an adult and so many things our boy is just starting to discover.
The problem is, as he matures and processes the world around him, his exposure to things both fascinating and frightening is part of the deal.
I sometimes wish I could shield him, just as I felt when I was raising his mother and his aunt, but I know the impossibility and perhaps the harm in doing so. The best I can do is to provide him a safe haven that he can count on when he is confronted with those moments in life that cause him fear, pain, confusion, and worry. Just like I did with my daughters, I can only hope it is enough.
On the day of Aiden’s birth I purchased a book of blank pages. Before I even met him, knowing only his full name, I began to tell him about himself, his family, the world he had been brought into. I update the book on occasion, sparing little detail so that when he is old enough to read and comprehend he will know just how he arrived at the place he presently finds himself. I hand the book to others in his life so they, too, can share their thoughts, feelings, and impressions as they relate to him. Aiden himself has entered into his book, adding drawings and stickers. When I showed him his book on a recent visit he exclaimed, “My book!” As he flipped through the pages seeing artwork from his younger self he said, “My brain is going crazy!”
I have two more grandchildren due this spring. I need to go out and find the perfect book of blank pages for each of them. When they are each 99-years-old and my own mortal body is long gone, I hope they will turn to the one thing of me that remains: my words and the documentation of their lives as I witnessed it.