Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Family, Life, and Rich Repercussions

Wonderful visit with my daughter, her partner, and their four-week-old daughter on the weekend. We (well, Pater) fed them, and we insisted they sleep or rest or go for a walk while we held the baby. I pushed away all thoughts of the work I was falling behind on -- after all, how many small-baby moments are there in a life? That smell, that warmth, that pliable, dense, luxuriant softness somehow fitting into the surface of your body, the tiny heartbeat and rhythmically rising and falling chest insisting on your own following suit until breath and heartbeat and feeling and being and deep, warm protectiveness are all that is important in the world. . . .

But now it's Tuesday, and the work matters. They left yesterday morning, and I had to teach two classes, and I did it, but I'm tired and today I teach another and tomorrow two more, and, well, you see how that goes. . . I'm not doing so well with the busy, at the moment, but I know I'll just cram this week full and then find a wee corner of downtime on the weekend. I can do it. I can do it. . . . If only this weren't the week that I scheduled two committee meetings in. And we host a Fall Feast for our department's students (and we cook for them! I'm supposed to make baked beans sometime tomorrow, which means I have to buy some of the makings today! Yikes!).

This is also the week that the Faculty's first Friday Colloquium happens -- I usually fit my yoga class in on Friday morning, but that will get bumped to Saturday morning, which means my long run gets bumped to Sunday. More importantly, it means that my one long-morning-to-myself is becoming a monthly, rather than a weekly phenomenon. In terms of guarding mental health, not so good. But the trade-off will be that I hear one of my colleagues present some of her research (on the poet Edward Thomas, of whom I've recently been reading because of his predilection for walking long distances) and enjoy some discussion with others. Mental stimulation, social engagement, also good for mental health.

And I wouldn't have traded last weekend's Busy-ness for all the quiet in the world. But it has ramifications, this Nana stuff. We got some news a few weeks ago, and my husband said, "Wow! Our lives are really changing, aren't they?" He was referring to the powerful effect of being grandparents, and I was rather tempted to answer, "Well, Duh!" Didn't, you'll be pleased to know.
And I did know what he meant. As obvious as it might seem that this newest generation would change our lives, I don't know that we could ever have predicted how drastically it would impact, for example, our day-planning.

I'm reminded of an afternoon back in 1985 or '86. I'd woken the baby up from his afternoon nap to load him into his car seat. His 3-year-old sister wiggled in next to him, got buckled in, and we headed off to pick up 6 and 9-year-old sisters, to drive them to, respectively, their skating and their piano lessons. The older two were already squabbling as they climbed into the car, but after the disagreement over who got which seat was over, the one who'd ended up in the back seat settled in to catching up with her younger siblings. All was fine for a block or two, but the play turned to teasing turned to howling by the baby, and I could only drive and cajole from behind the steering wheel. And I remember thinking, "I never thought this through! This is what it means to have four kids! I'm not entirely sure I can do this!" I might also have thought a little "HELP!" in there as well. . . .

And now, almost 30 years later, I'm still experiencing the consequences. And they are wonderful, rich, astonishing even. But sometimes exhausting.

The photo above? Well, relaxation this week has consisted of some knitting while I watch an episode or two of The Good Wife. I've been sound asleep by 9:30 many nights lately, but this little baby blanket in a Hudson's Bay Point Blanket pattern is proceeding apace. Simple garter stitch in a washable wool (Smart Superwash, I love this yarn which, though Superwash, still retains some wooly "crunch").  Someone new should arrive in a few months to snuggle in it -- lives are changing, as we speak. . .


28 comments:

  1. The blanket pattern is gorgeous....I might knit that up this fall.
    There is something so magical when one has a wee babe in ones arms....and yes our lives have changed but good for you not to blurt out DUH! Stating the obvious is often not the wisest option.
    Your life is rich and busy, but reading your words I feel your maternal love at the forefront of this post....another poignant post full of beauty.

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    1. I didn't blurt DUH, but there might have been an eye roll! ;-) That's the one given, isn't it, life changing?! Keeps us on our toes!

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  2. Family. They are so beloved and yet they aren't really set up to give us alone time, now are they. Hugs to you, without interrupting any possible solitude:).

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  3. When we all get together the commotion reminds me of how quickly grandchildren change the equation. It's not simple arithmetic, it's exponential.
    Your knitting project is gorgeous. Another new baby? How delightful. Do you feel your heart expanding?

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    1. That's it, precisely. It's exponential, synergistic -- a bit overwhelming at times, but also intensely rewarding!
      And yes, you're an alert reader. We're absolutely overjoyed, heart-burstingly, yes!

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  4. Last night, an older man at my group was sharing one of the challenges that had recently occurred in his life. Two of his young adult grandchildren were going to live elsewhere. Perhaps they would each meet and marry someone in their new countries and he would not get to see them as often. The busyness comes and goes as does the enjoyment of the subsequent generations. Your students will learn from a teacher who brings forth a wonderfully rich and full life and you will find the necessary alone time. The time to one's self provides the energy and enthusiasm to fuel the other parts of life. Take care!

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    1. Thanks for reminding me of the flip side -- I can't bear to imagine if they were too far away for me to be busy with them, and yet they do occasionally talk of that possibility, one by one. They're still young, after all, and who knows where careers will move them. . .

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  5. Ah, yet another grandchild? Wonderful news!

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  6. Replies
    1. I'm only discovering Thomas because of the coincidence of my reading Robert MacDonald's The Old Ways, which refers to Thomas walking as (at least in part) a response to his depression. Then, by coincidence, a colleague in our Creative Writing department has been writing about him. I love that kind of synchronicity, don't you? "Adlestrop" was new to me, and his "The Lane" -- that quiet intense rural countryside, so poised. . . . the sounds against the quiet so piercing or compelling or . . . .birds, sky, green. . . I'm just learning it. So much wonderful stuff in the world, isn't there?!

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    2. Isn't there just? So many more books to read and poems to love...

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  7. So much to learn from one post (and its surroundings)!
    Of course I knew about the importance of blankets in the trade between Europeans and the First Nations, and I had heard of the Hudson Bay Company, but you made me look up and learn what a Hudson's Bay point blanket is. Thank you.
    Also thank you for the link to Sonya Huber's Shadow Syllabus. "The real world" isn't the real world. So very true.
    And I love the Wayman poem. Everyone who teaches has felt the same at some moment or other.
    Congratulation on the good news!
    All the best for this busy week. After spoiling your students, don't forget to spoil yourself.

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    1. Perhaps I shouldn't say "spoil" but "pamper". That's waht I meant, anyway.

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  8. Beautiful lines there on holding a baby. Sigh...
    Am guessing having four children means there will always be many occasions for helping, and receiving love from them and their own children.

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    1. Yes, there are also occasions for helping -- well repaid!

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  9. My necessary "treat" to myself this morning was to send lunch money with my three rather than pack--just couldn't find my way toward the preparations with grading coming in (5 different classes this semester!), a MS. I'm copyediting, and the general responsibilities of being a parent and partner. Being in the actual classroom is fine but the prep and the grading are challenging!

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    1. Oh, the juggling! As for your last sentence, I'd say I'm fine in the classroom as well, except that if I haven't done enough prep, the performance becomes more demanding -- and I think it's the performance aspect that really tires. A "treat" is a good idea, even if it's as simple as buying your way out of one little chore. I've built in a few for this weekend. Ugh to the 5 classes -- I'm "only" teaching 3, having scored a Release for some committee work (which, obv. comes with its own demands)

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  10. How richly satisfying, to cuddle you little granddaughter! The rest pales into insignificance. I don't know how you find the time to blog with so much to do! Love your reminiscences of the challenges of small children. When my youngest son was born, I had a 20 mile round trip to the older children's school for a term, and he would invariably wake up from his afternoon nap halfway through the return trip and bawl for the rest of the journey, greatly to the chargrin of the rest of us, confined in such a small space. Happy days!

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    1. Yes, those afternoons in the car, I remember them well -- luckily I didn't have a 20-mile round trip!
      But you're right, in the long run all the travails pale into insignificance. . .

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  11. At the moment my absorbing family issues are taking care of an elderly father, but when I sat in the hospital watching him sleep it brought back the memories of him when I was a little girl. I think memories are a way to help us keep some equilibrium at times.

    Keeping up with classes well (fresh ideas, good grading etc) is hard to balance when family needs/demands are high. Sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's a relief to get in the classroom where I know what I am doing and think I can make a difference. Love this post!
    Lynn

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    1. Memories as balancing, that works for me.
      And you're right that focussing on the demands of the classroom can be a relief -- and/or a definition when the rest of life gets amorphous. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post -- hope your father's situation is at least stabiliising.

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  12. Congratulations to you all !
    Yes , every grandchild has to have his own granny-made blanket and this will be very snuggly .

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    1. And it's such a pleasure to knit a baby blanket -- mindless and meditative, the garter stitch. . . .

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  13. Life.........family........they require us to extend and expand, as they do. I think that congratulations must be in order!!
    I am a poor one to be giving advice. I haven't yet managed to create that perfect balance. I feel such a fraud when I ask potential volunteers 'What do you do to create balance in your life?' We Nanas can't do it all, though we think we can, and our children believe we can. A little balance, though, would be a very good thing. You can achieve that, from what I know of you. It's just hard because it means that the focus has to be on you - just you. Good luck!

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    1. I think/hope that the balance comes in knowing that one chooses, somehow. There are many demands in my life I could say "no" too. But "no" comes with its own set of consequences, doesn't it? And I know it will have its day (another way to achieve balance, just move along the timeline a few years!) Thanks for the luck! I wish you the same as you juggle, work, husband, grandchildren, moving. . . .

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  14. That's the thing about family, alone time isn't really a part of the picture, but pulling yourself up from exhaustion for that all-too precious time seems to have its own restorative power. (She says as being available to meet some unexpected family needs is piling onto an already all-too-busy week)

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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