Finding Balance

Posted on Wed 04/03/2013 by


20080318_mclaughlin_4_staffBy Tom McLaughlin ~20130401_luke_and_henry_2013

There are ways of knowing beyond the logical and empirical. We can know things in our hearts with certainty. Most of you probably understand this already, but I’m just getting used to it, having overused my brain and underused my heart for most of my sixty-two years. I’m striving for more balance during my final years on this side of the turf and my grandchildren are helping me in that effort.

Young children operate mostly on a feeling level and I’ve been spending lots of time with four of them – all under four years old. They require close supervision until their judgement develops and this will come about largely by making mistakes. My job as their grandfather is to let them do so, but not hurt themselves too much while they’re at it – then encourage them to think about their experience. I help them think and they help me feel as I watch them become completely absorbed in their play with each other. We also dance a lot.

My grandchildren are out of balance too, but they’re supposed to be at their age. Much of their play is fantasy and quite magical. I’d mostly forgotten that realm and it’s nice to be reminded of how it feels as they involve me in their world of make-believe. It’s a balm for the soul. They pretend to shop for groceries and pretend to cook dinner. They help me when I cook for real too. It takes longer, but I like it better. They can’t chop vegetables yet, but they can put them into the saucepan after I do. Note to self: buy more string beans so they can snap them.

The twins will be a month old this Friday and they’re all feelings. They nurse and sleep mostly, but lately they’re capable of sustained eye contact. Henry, the younger by 32 minutes, smiled last week while we were looking intensely into each other’s eyes. It wasn’t a gas pain either; it was a genuine smile. It’s going to be interesting to observe their development while we’re living under the same roof, especially from a nature/nurture perspective if the obstetrician who delivered them is correct and they are identical twins – but there I go again being analytical. They look similar but are not difficult to tell apart. Luke has a narrower face and thicker hair than Henry. The obstetrician said they shared one placenta and are therefore identical, but Annie said two placentas can fuse sometimes and maybe that happened in this case. Time will reveal the truth.

The girls are verbal and quite different from one another. Claire, the three-year-old, is a thoughtful introvert, not unlike this writer. Her two-year-old sister, Lila, is outgoing and more playful – and determined to do whatever her older sister does. They quarrel over dolls and other toys and I sometimes function as referee, even pulling them apart physically occasionally. There’s a lot of dancing, picking up toys, wiping bums and emptying the potty chair, reading “Little Golden Books” and Berenstain Bears,” watching “Dora the Explorer” and “Winnie The Pooh,” coloring, going for walks and to play-group, and doing crafts. I even learned to brush hair and make pony tails that stay put for hours in their very fine hair.

With the boys, it’s wiping their smaller bums, burping them, keeping them awake to establish a sleeping schedule, and assuring my daughter, Annie, that it will eventually get easier as she nurses the two of them simultaneously. Then, realizing there are good reasons we have children when we’re young, I have little trouble falling asleep at the end of the day.

Three days and two nights, paternal grandparents Roger and Chris come over and spell my wife and me and we go to our city house for a rest. They put in as much time as we do and thank God for them. Other extended family come when they can – a day here and a day there. Many of Annie’s friends have been sending suppers for all of us and I’m tasting some very creative cooking.

When the time comes for all of them to move back into their own home I’ll miss them – and I’ll be a better man, or more balanced at least. It’s happening already.

Contributing Editor   is a (now retired) history teacher and a regular weekly columnist for newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire. He writes about political and social issues, history, family, education and Radical Islam.

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