It’s 8:37pm, waaaaay past bedtime for my non-napping three year old.
I march down the long hallway in my parents house where we are spending the night, prepared to lay down the law. “It is bedtime young man! Close your eyes and go to sleep!” I practice in my sternest voice.
But when I reach the door, the sound I hear surprises me. It’s not my son out of his bed playing cars or talking to his stuffed animals. It’s my dad. His voice is animated. I hear him straining to keep the excitement contained in his hushed tone as he reads a book to my baby boy. I don’t recognize the story, but that’s part of the charm of a grandparent’s house, isn’t it? Different toys, different books, special treatment.
In this moment I witness a different kind of love too: the one that my father gives to my son, his grandson. It’s different from the love the same man offered me, his daughter. More carefree perhaps. My parents were barely in their 20’s when they had me. Two years later my brother was born. They had nothing “figured out” – nor did they have time to ponder life goals and parenting philosophies with a family to support. Instead of worrying about it all, they worked to keep our family intact and close by while struggling to make ends meet. They worked odd jobs and late night shifts to maximize the time spent with us. I remember going to eat at the restaurant where my mom worked felt like a treat. On special occasions I got to ride with my dad in his taxi. They didn’t call it “bring your kid to work day” and they didn’t consult Dr. Sears as to whether they were in the parameters of attachment parenting. Family meant togetherness in our house and, while they weren’t always perfect, my parents executed that philosophy flawlessly.
Before I step into my son’s room, I take a minute to honor the way I was raised. Unlike my parents, I believe in schedules and structure, but above all else I share the goal of cultivating a close knit family. In fact, that idea is why we made the trip, on a random Thursday when my son should be in school, to my parents’ house for a long weekend. We are here so he can soak up time with his grandparents who cherish him in a way I never could.
As I hear my father taking on the voices of characters in this book, I recognize his unique grandfather love. It is a love enriched by time and experience, and stripped of over-stressed responsibility. It is pure and perfect, and has no regard for bedtimes. Not tonight anyway. I turn around and go back to my computer to write while the tears of joy fall from my eyes. Tonight, we are three generations under one roof. We are together. We are family.