Recently we were graced with two days of visits from one of Anita’s nephews, his wife, and their daughters, aged 1½ and 2½.
I must admit to a fair bit of trepidation about this visit. Not because I thought it would be unpleasant—I like my in-laws!—but because for the last five years I’ve avoided small children. Just not a good idea for me: too evocative.
But of course that was no reason to say “No, I don’t want them to visit”, so I gritted my teeth and vowed to endure. They arrived mid-day, each with a child in their arms. And within a half-hour, the girls were chattering away and exploring. (Those who know Anita will be unsurprised to hear that she’d arranged a number of special surprises for them—nothing fancy, just things that kids that age love!)
Toward the end of the first afternoon, the older girl came up to me and held out her arms. “She wants a hug!” said her mother, so I obliged. And then had to go to another room for a few minutes until I could see normally again, after being transported back two dozen years.
But that turns out to have been cathartic. After that, I was able to open up a bit and enjoy them more. The second day was even better, as both the girls and I were more relaxed. We played, we went for walks, and we sat around and chatted. One of those great visits where there’s no real agenda, so you don’t try to structure things too much and wind up stressed. There were many tears at our end when they left.
Watching the parents, I had a small epiphany: these two young adults are enjoying the hell out of having these kids. I'm sure not every minute is magic, but they’re fully engaged and interested, seem to have a great partnership, and are guiding them through life, without being overly strict or helicoptering. A rare combination these days, in my (admittedly limited) experience, and something they should be very proud of.
And that, too, took me back. I think that Anita and I really tried to appreciate every minute with our girl. Of course we didn’t succeed all the time, but I believe we made a darned good attempt.