Betty and I are supremely blessed. Our grandchildren live about five minutes away. We share time at church, play games, watch football, and have dinner together most Sundays. Whenever one or more of them appears in a school play or musical performance, usually we can attend.
We have gone to both Disneyland and Disney World together. Several times we have rented a large house to spend Christmas with each other in the snow and cold of Flagstaff. New Year's Eve sleepovers were a common occurrence for a few years. We played chess together, via Marco Polo, for several months of Covid.
In short, we have a very close and marvelous relationship with the kids. We are their guardians if the need arises. They have benefited from having both sets of grandparents as part of their young lives close by and involved. When our youngest daughter is not out of town on a business trip, she jumps right in; we have a full house!
However, none of these good things can slow the tick of the clock. With our grandson about to turn 15, one granddaughter 13, and the youngest girl 11, we see things begin to change. No, there is no loss of love between us all. We continue to spend Sundays, birthdays, and occasional vacations with each other.
Quite naturally, though, friendships are starting to take an increasing percentage of their time. At church, the older kids gravitate to a core group of friends, both before and immediately after the service. A week or two ago, the almost 15-year-old worked up the courage to ask a girl to a homecoming dance. Suddenly, he realizes his gym shorts, sneakers, and too-small T-shirts, his everyday wardrobe, should be upgraded for the dance (and probably beyond).
The just-barely teenaged girl is quickly becoming a young lady. While she is not rushing headlong toward cosmetics, gossip, or becoming part of a clique at school, it is obvious her attentions are less likely to be directed toward Betty or me. Trying different looks and clothes combinations has become common.
Even the youngest is showing signs of wanting a bit more distance from the Grans. She still sits by me at church but will then move over a seat to be closer to the rest of her family.
Of course, all of this is perfectly normal; I would be worried if it were any other way. Just like our own daughters, these three individual human beings are beginning to find out how they fit into the world. Their sense of identity is not linked quite so tightly with either parents or grandparents. They are establishing some new boundaries.
I am very confident that because of the way they were raised, the family will remain irreplaceable, regardless of their stage of life. Even so, there is a palpable sadness as this natural maturity begins. It seems like just yesterday, they were giggling bundles of energy and questions, each fighting to be the closest to Gran or Grandad. We spoke, and they instantly stopped whatever they were doing to listen or react.
We would once worry about taking an extended RV trip. After a month or so, when we returned home, each child would have changed and grown so much! How could we voluntarily miss all that?
Now, in a nod toward an adjustment that all parents and grandparents must make, Betty and I realize that in just a blink of the eye, the length of a vacation we take will not upset the grandkids. They will not worry that we are not instantly available.
A month-long cruise to New Zealand? A five-week driving trip to Quebec and New England? Our decision of when, or even whether to go, will no longer be based on bothering the kids. When we return, they will want to see the pictures and hear all about it. Each will be bursting to tell us about what has been happening in their lives since we left.
Each of us will understand the way of the world: children are meant to fly with the wind beneath their own wings. And, in the not too distant future, those wings will carry them out of our immediate orbit and on the journey of living.
It is expected, but it is still sad.